Taking a Stand Against Sitting: April 15, 2011

When it comes to heart bypass surgery, every beat counts. And how well the patient can handle the procedure is crucial. The morbidly obese and those with severe infections were often the most at risk for surgery, but new technology is changing all of that. "Many of these patients we wouldn't operate on at all if we didn't have thee robot. They're not even a candidate for open heart surgery because we know they are so high risk," says Dr. Paul DiGiorgi, a cardiothoracic surgeon on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.

Before now, traditional heart surgery consisted of a sternotomy which is the opening of the chest wall to gain access to the heart. The da Vinci robotic procedure eliminates that, and uses tiny incisions in the ribs to gain access to the heart and its valves. "They're not suffering from having a large wound in the chest put in the breast bone and in high risk patients that can be the difference between life and death because if they get a sternum wound infected badly, there's a very high change they are going to die."

Along with a lower risk of infections, there's little scarring and less time spent in the hospital. "These patients we've shown now get out of the hospital in 4 days average," adds Dr. DiGiorgi.

The recovery time is short as well. Most people return to normal daily activities within a few weeks.