Computer/robot assisted open heart surgery

Max More (
Fri, 22 May 1998 09:30:46 -0700

First computer-assisted open-heart surgery performed in France

Copyright 1998
Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

PARIS (May 22, 1998 06:56 a.m. EDT -- French surgeons
used computers and robots to perform open heart surgery on six patients
this month, a technique that doctors say could result in less trauma and
pain for the patient.

The first operation took place on May 7 at Paris' Broussais Hospital,
followed by five other successful heart operations using the same
technology, the hospital said.

Developed by Intuitive Surgical, of Mountain View, Calif., the technology
"lets us perform difficult, even (heretofore) impossible, gestures," Dr.
Alain Carpentier, who lead the team of French doctors, said Thursday.

"It's a revolution, a formidable step forward," said Carpentier, who
performed the surgery with Dr. Didier Loulmet.

Speaking at a news conference, Carpentier said that higher precision is
among the benefits of the system officially called computer-assisted

The system uses "mini-incisions" and is less traumatizing and less painful
than traditional techniques, but also more difficult, a hospital statement

Several of the six patients, all adults, suffered from heart valve disease.
The first patient had a defect involving communication between the heart's
two upper chambers, the atria.

Using the system, the surgeon sits at a console several yards from the
patient, peering inside the heart via a three-dimensional camera inside the
patient and directing a robot that actually performs the surgery.

The surgeon's gestures are transmitted by computer to the robotic tools,
which "faithfully reproduce all movements of the surgeon," Carpentier said.

Dr. Philip Oyer, professor of cardio-thoracic surgery at Stanford
University, said the computer-assisted technique is part of a new trend of
minimally invasive surgery. Much of the early promise of the techniques has
not been borne out, however, he added.

"But there's no doubt many people are working on it and pushing the limits
and this (computer-assisted surgery) is one more step along that road,"
Oyer said in a telephone interview.

Carpentier said it was the U.S. military that originally conceived the
notion of a robot surgeon that could work on battlefields, a dream that
"sat in the drawers of the American Army for years."

The physician said he was excited when operating with the new technique
"because you are in a world that you have never seen before," including the
insides of the heart's lower chambers.

"I think it is the same emotion that the people who first walked on the
moon must have felt," he said.

By CECILE ROUX, Associated Press Writer