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    A Robot in the Operating Room: New Heart Surgery Option Can Speed Recovery

    After robotic-assisted surgery at Sutter CPMC to treat his mitral valve prolapse, Jeff Dorsey takes a try at ziplining.

    When Jeffrey Dorsey, a 55-year-old Marin County CPA, went to see his rheumatologist for joint pain, the last thing he expected to discover was a heart murmur.

    Tests revealed that Jeff’s mitral valve - a valve that regulates blood flow from the heart’s left atrium to left ventricle - was damaged. This meant that blood was leaking backward through the valve with every heartbeat.

    Mitral valve prolapse affects about 5% of the U.S. population. Most people have no symptoms and require only ongoing observation. But if the valve damage is more extensive, as in Jeff’s case, one can experience fatigue, shortness of breath with exertion, palpitations and dizziness, and require surgery to repair the problem.

    Prior to his diagnosis, Jeff recalls visiting a client in downtown San Francisco and climbing up Bush Street to return to his car: “By the time I got to the garage, I was dying. I kept thinking, ‘Gee, am I really this out of shape?’” Now he understood the fatigue. The more he exercised, the harder his heart pumped and the greater the loss of oxygenated blood flow to the rest of his body.

    Traditional mitral valve repair heart surgery involves a six- to eight-inch incision down the middle of the chest and up to two weeks of recovery time in the hospital. But Jeff wanted to know, “Is it possible to get to my heart without cracking open my breastbone?”

    The answer was “yes” using a minimally invasive surgery that employs the da Vinci® Surgical System, a robotic surgical platform with 3D, high-definition vision and miniaturized, wristed instruments.

    The surgeon accesses the mitral valve by inserting these instruments through five tiny incisions on the side of the patient’s chest. Controlled entirely by the doctor, robotic-assisted surgery translates the surgeon’s hand movements outside the body into more precise movements of the miniaturized instruments inside the patient’s body.

    In January 2013, under the direction of cardiothoracic surgeon Sachin Shah, M.D. at Sutter Health’s CPMC, Jeff became the first patient at CPMC to undergo mitral valve repair using robotic surgery. “There was no pain,” says Jeff, “It was amazing. And four days later I was released from the hospital.” Since then, more than 40 robotic mitral valve repairs have been performed at CPMC.

    Four weeks after his surgery, back at work, Jeff visited his client again in San Francisco. He says, “This time I walked straight up Bush Street to Stockton, no problem.”

    For more information, call 415-600-5780 or visit