Programs - University of Minnesota Physicians Heart at Fairview

Minimally Invasive and Robotic Heart Surgery

Using robotic technology, University of Minnesota cardiovascular surgeons are performing heart surgeries with minimally invasive techniques. We use sophisticated thin instruments, miniature cameras and robotic devices, especially one called the da Vinci® robot, to perform operations that have long been managed by open-heart surgery.

In minimally invasive procedures, your breastbone is not cut. Instead, the surgeon approaches your heart from the side, making small incisions (less than two inches) between your ribs. In coronary bypass surgery, for example, entry is on the left side of your chest; for valve repairs and replacement, it is on the right side. For atrial fibrillation ablation, the heart is approached from both sides.

Always the pioneers, surgeons at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview have performed the greatest number of robotic-assisted cases in Minnesota—without a single mortality. Our surgeons are experienced in the technique and superbly skillful. Experience is important for all types of surgery, but the right experience is essential for minimally invasive and robotic surgery. As one surgeon put it, “The more you do, the better you are; and the better you are, the more you do.” The list of minimally invasive procedure is long, and it is not uncommon for our surgeons to correct more than one heart problem during a procedure.

Beating heart surgery
Depending on the procedure, the surgeon may choose to perform minimally invasive surgery on a beating heart. In other words, you are not placed on a heart-lung machine. This is called “off-pump” surgery.

daVinci robotic surgery
The da Vinci® robot’s arms are essentially an extension of the surgeon’s hands, and a tiny camera attached to a robotic arm provides a very detailed, three-dimensional view of the operating space inside your chest. The robotic arms are very agile: giving the surgeon a greater range of motion than what is possible with hand-manipulated moves in traditional procedures

Benefits of minimally invasive surgery
Robot-assisted surgeries offer patients many advantages:

  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Faster recovery
  • No splitting of the breastbone
  • Less risk of infection
  • Minimal blood loss and less need for transfusion
  • Smaller incisions
  • Little scarring
  • Significantly less pain 

Hybrid minimally invasive surgery
University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview is one of the only hospitals in the United States where cardiothoracic surgeons perform hybrid minimally invasive coronary artery bypass grafts (CABG) using state-of-the-art robotic technology.

This is a combined procedure that brings surgery and stenting to the same disease. Using the da Vinci® robot, the bypass surgery occurs first, allowing the other vessels to be stented (propped open with metal mesh tubes). After this first part of the surgery, angioplasty is used to restore blood flow in the arteries that do not require a bypass. Medication-coated stents prevent future reblocking. In all but four other hospitals in the country, these procedures would be performed separately, thus requiring two surgeries and more than twice the time and pain for patients.