Robotic Heart Surgery Offers Quicker Recovery and Fewer Complications

Rick May, a 66-year-old man from Unity, credits his surgeon, Dr. Hiroyuki Tsukui, with changing his life after he had a heart attack. When doctors found blockage in his heart, they gave him the choice of open heart surgery or being the first patient to undergo robotic heart surgery through Independence Health System. May chose robotic heart surgery because it didn’t require splitting him open.

May’s heart attack occurred in May 2022, but he had to wait until March for the surgery because the robotic room at the hospital wasn’t ready yet. Once the surgery date arrived, May found the process of robotic coronary artery bypass surgery to be “great.” He had no pain and was released from the hospital in three days. Within 15 days, he was able to drive his pickup truck, and he didn’t have to attend therapy because he completed his own therapy at home. In just eight weeks, his recovery was equivalent to what it would have been in eight months for a patient who had undergone open heart surgery.

Dr. James Adisey, medical director for Independence Health’s Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute, organized a heart care event at Westmoreland Mall to showcase the care available to the local community. The event aimed to provide information to attendees, including students from the Greater Latrobe School District, and hopefully inspire some of them to pursue careers in medicine.

During the event, Dr. Tsukui explained the main difference between traditional and robotic surgeries. In open heart surgery, surgeons make a large incision and break the patient’s bones to access the heart. In contrast, robotic surgery requires small incisions made on the side of the patient’s chest. However, patients must be physically able to wait at least an hour for the surgery to be eligible for robotic surgery.

Since May’s robotic heart surgery, Dr. Tsukui has performed about 10 more surgeries of this kind, and he believes that robotic heart surgery will become more common due to its benefits, such as quicker recovery and fewer complications. Additionally, the small incisions offer a cosmetic advantage.

Independence Health’s Westmoreland Hospital has been recognized for excellence in cardiac surgery and cardiac care by Healthgrades, ranking in the top 5% of the nation’s hospitals for cardiac surgery and the top 10% for cardiac care. The hospital is one of 12 in Pennsylvania to be included in Healthgrades’ list of America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Cardiac Care.

With talented and kind staff members who are dedicated to taking care of the local community, Independence Health’s hospitals provide a sense of comfort to patients. As Dr. Adisey stated, “These are people you see in the grocery store…I want people in the community to know that.”

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