Robotic heart surgery


26 May 2004

Monash surgeons perform the first robotic heart operations in the southern hemisphere, opening a new chapter in Australian cardiac surgery.

Senior Monash lecturers, Mr Aubrey Almeida and Mr Randall Moshinsky, are the first Australian heart surgeons to train using the Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System at the East Carolina University School of Medicine in the US.

The operation is a new kind of keyhole surgery using a high-resolution 3D telescope and two robotic arms that are inserted into the patient through small incisions. The surgeon then performs the operation by controlling fine instruments at the tips of the robotic arms while seated at a console away from the operating table.

"Robotic surgery minimises the intrusion into the body and the subsequent recovery time - our patients are discharged in half the time they would be following conventional open-heart surgery," Mr Almeida says. For example, instead of spending a week in bed, patients could be discharged from hospital in four days.

In the past, open heart surgery could leave a 30 centimetre scar, cutting through the patient’s breast bone to get to the heart. The Da Vinci procedure can perform the job with four 0.1 to 4 cm incisions.

The Monash surgeons are now using the $3 million device at the Epworth Hospital, and running the second busiest cardiac unit in the world.