“Are You On The Heart-Lung Machine Longer During Robotic Valve Surgery?” Asks Nina

I just received a very interesting question from Nina about robotic heart valve repair and the heart-lung machine (also known as the “pump”).

Diagram Of The Heart Lung Machine
Heart-Lung Machine Diagram

Nina writes, “Hi Adam – I’ve been reading your blog and patient comments about thoracotomy versus sternotomy for mitral valve repair. But, I have not found a similar post about the robotic procedure. I need a valve repair and I’m leaning towards the da Vinci robot. However, I have heard that patients are on the pump for much longer. Do you have any data on this? Thanks, Nina”

Nina raises a common concern for patients specific to the heart-lung machine for many reasons including the ongoing debate about pumphead.

So… To obtain the best answer to Nina’s question, I contacted Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood. As you may know, Dr. Chitwood is the director of the East Carolina Heart Institute. But, more importantly for this question, Dr. Chitwood pioneered the use of the da Vinci Surgical Robot for mitral valve repair. Dr. Chitwood is also the past-president of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood With da Vinci Surgical Robot
Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood with the da Vinci Surgical Robot

In response to Nina’s question Dr. Chitwood wrote to me, “Adam – For those of us have done many, many, many da Vinci robotic mitral repairs the pump times are typically no more than 15 minutes longer. Today, I did a procedure with less than 90 minutes on the pump. The repair was complete in 45 minutes. Please encourage Nina to select a surgeon who has extensive experience with robotic valve repairs. I can help Nina if she would like to chat. My office phone number is (252) 744-4822. She can ask for Amy Ethridge or myself. Regards, Dr. Chitwood”

I hope that helps helps Nina (and perhaps you) better understand the use of the heart-lung machine during robotic valve repair.

Also, thanks to Dr. Chitwood for answering Nina’s question! To learn more about Dr. Chitwood and the ECHI, please see “Cardiac Clinic Tour: Keeping Up With Dr. Chitwood”.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • Tim Purnell

    I just had to weigh in on this one as I am home recovering as we speak from Mitral valve repair surgery just this past Fri. May 7th. Surgery was a complete success-and I am already feeling great! I was home in under 48 hrs and am taking very minimal pain meds already. My life is already nearly back to normal (less than 1-week). I had done Very extensive research for my surgery and concluded that if you are eligible for robotic assisted, minimally invasive (Da Vinci) surgery-you should do it. I think you would be crazy not too, seriously!!

  • alex

    Hi Nina
    I had a robotic mitral valve repair in Cleveland Clinic by Dr. Tomislav Mihaljevic on 10th March 2010 and can very well understand your concern. I am a 30 yr old software engineer and because of the nature of my profession, I was really concerned about the pumphead syndrome or other side effects on the brain.
    I am so glad to tell you that I did not loose a single neuron of my mind and my memory and acumen are just like before if not better :).
    My total pump time was about 53 minutes and procedure time about 3-4 hours. Robotic is the way to go if possible in your case. Just completed 2 months of surgery and feeling great. The heart pounding and irregular beats are gone. Joined work after 5 weeks and never felt miserable or in excruciating pain. Please ask me if you have any questions.
    I also consulted Dr. Chitwood but Cleveland Clinic worked out convenient for me. You will have the best results at any of these two facilities.

  • Patricia Shabel

    Nina, I had mitral valve repair on December 15th, 2009, with the Da Vinci robotic machine. I did experience some pumphead, although people, including the surgeon’s nurse, said I wasn’t. My short term memory was really bad, I would switch words around in my sentences, I couldn’t remember what I was saying mid-sentence or even what the topic was, I had a hard time with numbers, etc.

    It’s now about 5 months since my surgery, and I no longer have any of these symptoms and I am doing great! It was a gradual process improving and feeling confident with remembering things and feeling fully sharp mentally. It started to really get better at about 3 months after my surgery or so. I felt improvement all the way along from a couple of weeks after the surgery, but within 3-4 months, I really began to feel fully like myself.

    My surgeon was Dr. Alfredo Trento at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, and he has done hundreds of this surgery with the Da Vinci. He did an awesome job, and my heart works great! And now my mind is good, too! I hope this helps!

  • Cindy

    My mitral & tricuspid repair was not done by robotics but it did take 8.5 hours! I’m not sure how much of that time was on the “pump” … but I imagine a good bit of it! I had some short term memory problems, really needed quiet to concentrate on my office book work … surgery was Feb. ’09. I am just about back to my NORMAL forgetfulness 😉 now. What I’m saying is that yes, time on the pump is important to consider … but I was on it for a long time & am doing fine. BTW. my surgery was expected to be just 4 hrs.

  • linda jex

    My husband has to decide who to go to and where to go to get a mitral valve repair. Dr. Siwek of Spokane Washington has been recommended along with the cleveland clinic. Can anyone advise us what to do. We live in Idaho. He would like to have a minimally invasive procedure.

  • linda jex

    My husband has to decide who to go to and where to go to get a mitral valve repair. Dr. Siwek of Spokane Washington has been recommended along with the cleveland clinic. Can anyone advise us what to do. We live in Idaho. He would like to have a minimally invasive procedure.

  • lanndi

    Where can I find info on average length a patient is on heart/lung machine? My brother is worried about pumphead. He was on the H/L for 100 minutes during his daVinci procedure.

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