First-Of-Its-Kind Heart Surgery At Klinik Hirslanden In Zurich

Premium Switzerland talks to Prof. Dr. Grünenfelder and PD Dr. Salzberg about the groundbreaking heart surgery successfully performed at HerzKlinik with a Da Vinci robot.
HerzKlinik at Klinik Hirslanden in Zurich is a Swiss reference centre for minimally invasive cardiac surgery including percutaneous treatments such as TAVI, MitraClip interventions and minimally invasive surgery of the mitral valve. On September 9, Prof. Dr. Jürg Grünenfelder and PD Dr. Sacha P. Salzberg carried out the first mitral valve operation using the Da Vinci Surgical System; making it the first one of its kind to be performed in German-speaking Switzerland.
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How does the Da Vinci robot work?

The Da Vinci is a Tele-manipulator. This means the Robot reproduces the movements of the surgeon sitting at a console located in a room adjacent to the operation theatre. It is crucial to understand that the patient is still being operated by a surgeon. The robot is just an enabling technology.

What are the main advantages of the Da Vinci technology?

Imagine having arms 1cm thick, 10 times magnifying eyes and being able to perform surgery in a closed space. This is what the robot enables us to do.

From your experience, do robotic-assisted surgeries have a higher complication rate than regular endoscopic surgeries?

No, it’s quite the opposite. As you have better vision and control of your movements in the closed chest, everything becomes more precise and fewer complications occur. This has been proven over the past 10 years in urology where prostate surgery is now being performed only by robotic-assistance.

How long did the surgery take? Was the process quicker compared to other minimally invasive surgeries?

Actually, the procedure doesn’t take longer with or without the robot. Robotic surgery requires a team approach. This means one surgeon operates the console while a table-side surgeon assists actively. Through this collaboration robotic surgery becomes very efficient and less time is wasted, leading to better outcomes.

How is the patient recovering compared to patients who have undergone non-robotic surgeries? Is the recovery period shorter?

It’s amazing what a difference it makes. Patients are up and around one day after surgery which is never seen after open heart surgery. It appears that the robot allows us to perform more tissue sparing and much smoother operations. Therefore, patients require less pain medication, which reduces pulmonary complications.

What type of patients could opt for Da Vinci assisted mitral valve surgery?

There are a few restrictions, for example it’s contraindicated in overweight patients. Nevertheless, most patients requiring mitral valve repair or even replacement can undergo robotically assisted surgery.
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