Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s ‘Dr Da Vinci’ performs heart surgeries with robotic precision

Controlled by a trained medical professional using a joystick and 3D goggles, the robot can perform complex procedures such as a triple by-pass and even a quadruple by pass surgery, with ease.

The Da Vinci Robot first performed heart surgery in July. Its use of intricate techniques significantly shortens patients’ recovery time and lowers the risk of surgical trauma. Photos Courtesy Cleveland Clinic
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ABU DHABI // As heart surgeons go, Dr Da Vinci is as skilled as they come, although his bedside manner could be better.

The Da Vinci Robot, the latest addition to the medical staff at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, has been conducting complicated operations with all the skills of a human surgeon, albeit one with four perfectly tremor-free arms.

Controlled by a surgeon using a joystick and three-dimensional goggles, the robot can perform complex procedures, such as a quadruple bypass, with ease. The first robotic operations were carried out in July.

The robot is able to forgo traditional heart-surgery techniques, which involve cutting the breast bone. It performs intricate operations through tiny holes made in the chest wall, which means that a patient’s recovery time is considerably shorter and the risk of surgical trauma is significantly lower.

Adopting this technology is essential for treating the hospital’s patients from the UAE and across the region, where heart disease is prevalent, according to Dr Johannes Bonatti, the head of the hospital’s heart and vascular institute.

“Cardiovascular disease, specifically coronary heart disease, is so prevalent here that there is a need for these services,” he said.

“Because the precision is so good with the machine, we can offer a much faster recovery time. There was definitely a need for bringing these services to Abu Dhabi.”

Dr Bonatti said another advantage of using the robot was that several complex procedures could be combined in one operation.

Surgeons were recently able to carry out two cardiovascular bypasses and place three stents in a man in his fifties in one session.

“Placing four grafts in one setting without opening the chest is one of the most complex procedures we ever did. We also combined robotic surgery with the stenting of a heart,” Dr Bonatti said.

Not all patients are eligible to have robotic surgery and tests, such as computerised tomography scans, are needed to gauge their suitability.

Patients with highly impaired heart function are not suitable to undergo robotic surgery.

“Our team of cardiac surgeons is among the most experienced in the world in performing complex robotic heart surgeries,” said Dr Tomislav Mihaljevic, the hospital’s chief executive.

He worked with Dr Bonatti on starting the world’s largest robotic heart surgery programme at Cleveland Clinic in the United States.

They passed on their surgical techniques to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi this year.

“At Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi we have received local, regional and international patients,” Dr Mihaljevic said.

“Specifically in our heart and vascular institute, many of our patients are UAE nationals or residents, although we are also seeing an increasing number of international patients from the GCC and Europe.”