• Cardiology Patient Stories

    Robot-Assisted Heart Surgery and a Return to an Active Life

Mat Rohrer returns to active life after robotic heart surgery.

Six years ago, increased fatigue led Matt Rohrer to Mayo Clinic, where doctors told him his heart’s mitral valve had a severe leak. Today, after robot-assisted heart surgery, Matt is back to enjoying his busy family lifestyle.

Matt Rohrer has known since he was a teenager that he had a heart murmur. It's caused by a heart valve condition called mitral valve prolapse.

The mitral valve, located between the heart's two left chambers, normally closes tightly during heart contractions. That keeps blood from flowing backward from lower chamber (the ventricle) into the upper chamber (the atrium). With mitral valve prolapse, the mitral valve's flaps bulge into the upper left chamber each time the heart contracts. In some cases, that can keep the valve from closing tightly and can allow blood to leak back into the left atrium.

When Matt was diagnosed, he wasn't too concerned. He didn't have symptoms, and his condition didn't require treatment or lifestyle changes. That’s the way things stayed for many years.

A husband and father of two young boys, Matt divided his time between family, his insurance business, and activities he loves. That includes golf, basketball, pheasant hunting, exercise and coaching his sons’ soccer teams. And he did so without the slightest bit of interference from his heart condition.

In 2010, however, things began to change. At age 37, Matt was feeling increasingly tired and lethargic. Due for a five-year checkup, he decided to schedule an appointment at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus.

When the day of the appointment came, Matt braved a mid-January snowstorm to drive from his home in Monticello, Minnesota, to Rochester. Halfway through his echocardiography exam, the technologist administering the test saw the cause of his fatigue. Mayo Clinic cardiologist Hector Villarraga, M.D., sat down with Matt to tell him that the mitral valve in his heart had begun to leak severely, and corrective heart surgery had become necessary.

Watch the video below to hear Matt tell the rest of his Mayo Clinic story — including details of how robot-assisted heart surgery helped him return to his active lifestyle.