SAINT PAUL, MN (NBC) - There's a medical first in Minnesota. A robot is repairing heart valves at Regions Hospital in Saint Paul.
64-year-old Walter Koecher had heart valve surgery recently and feels great.
That's because instead of one long open heart surgery incision down the center of his chest, Koecher has just four small incisions.
Koecher had a leaky heart valve repaired with the robot arms of the Da Vinci-S Surgical System.
Heart surgeon Dr. Goya Raikar says the minimally-invasive system allows him to do "very complex operations inside the heart."
"It translates our movements but it eliminates tremor," Dr. Raikar explained.
It works kind of like a complex video game with Raikar at the controls while robot arms do the work a few feet away.
A surgeon is able to see what he or she is doing with the help of an endoscope with two lenses on the end.
Those lenses mimic the left and right eye, giving the surgeon true 3D vision.
The Da Vinci also magnifies what the surgeon is looking at tenfold and can go where a Surgeon's eyes can't.
Raikar said with traditional open heart surgery he could only look at the mitral heart valve sideways, but with the Da Vinci camera, "You're actually looking right down what I say is the gun barrel view of the valve."
Because Dr. Raikar didn't have to crack open Koecher's chest, Koecher is more than ready to check out of the hospital, just five days after having surgery.
Koecher is the third patient in Minnesota to have heart valve surgery with the Da Vinci robot.
Raikar said the second patient was able to go back to work just 10 days after surgery. Recovery from traditional open heart surgery usually takes six to eight weeks.
In South Carolina, Palmetto Health Richland has the robot and will begin repairing heart valves in the next few months. You can find more information about that by clicking here>>