Shortness of breath is the most common symptom of a problem with the heart's mitral valve. A narrowing or leaking of the valve can cause blood to back up into the lungs. If the condition is severe and left untreated, it can cause heart failure or heart rhythm problems. When surgery is needed, technology is making repairs safer and leading to faster recovery.
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It's surgery to repair the valve leading to the largest chamber in your heart, the mitral valve.
"Normally when we do surgery, we'll make an incision in the front and go through the breastbone. That's called a sternotomy," says Dr. Richard Daly, a Mayo Clinic cardiovascular surgeon.
But for more than a decade, heart surgeons at Mayo Clinic also have performed a less-invasive mitral valve surgery, using a robot.
"We make small incisions over on the side between the ribs," says Dr. Daly. "We have the hands of the robot inside the chest, and they don't move by themselves. They are moved by a surgeon who sits at a console. The robot replicates that surgeon's hand movements very precisely inside the chest."
Patients treated robotically enjoy a more rapid recovery. And after performing nearly 1,000 of these procedures, the success rate at Mayo Clinic is 99%.
"I think this is really superior," says Dr. Daly. "We get better visibility than with an open surgery technique, and we have equal movement of the hands and dexterity to do the surgery. So I think this is quite an advance."