Mitral Valve Prolapse – The Short of It
In spite of being healthy as a horse (that’s just a phrase, I don’t know just how
healthy horses really are) I have stumbled across one little problem that is fairly
critical. A valve inside my heart is flapping in the wind rather than keeping the
blood flowing in the right direction. While I don’t seem to exhibit any real symptoms,
given another year or so I might have significant and possibly irreversible problems.
With a repair, I should be good as new (almost).
Fortunately, there is corrective action for this, but it is open-heart surgery –
no small deal.
I’m having a very advanced procedure to repair my heart. Rather than a full sternotomy,
there’s a robot-assisted, minimally-invasive procedure that puts my body through
much less trauma and cuts recovery time to well under half. I should be out of the
hospital in 3 days. Rather than exposing the heart by opening the rib cage, they
go between the ribs with four small incisions using endoscopic instruments and a
3-D camera to perform the intricate surgery through these "ports".
A million-dollar machine performs the robotic function giving the surgeon much better
dexterity and view of what s/he is doing. Electronic digital signal processors (DSP)
enhance vision, reduce the surgeon’s motions to a much smaller scale (8:1), and even
remove the natural tremor from her/his hand. Intuitive Surgical makes the da Vinci
machine which uses Analog Devices' DSPs in it.
I will go to North Carolina to have the surgery, performed by the surgeon who pioneered
the use of this machine for mitral valve prolapse (MVP) repair and led the US FDA’s
clinical trials (it was approved for such use just last November 2002), so I figure
I’m in the best possible hands. I expect to come out fine and should be able to return
back to my old occasionally-active lifestyle.
To provide a reference point, Dr. Chitwood has performed about 85 of these robotically-assisted
MVP surgeries, and 350 minimally-invasive procedures before the machine was available,
plus numerous full sternotomies leading up to that (apparently he also needed one
himself). Maybe a dozen surgeons in the world perform this advanced robotically-assisted
version of the surgery. Dr. Chitwood seems to have trained most of the other surgeons
on the machine and has performed more robotic-assisted MVP repairs himself than anyone
There are a lot of fascinating details to this surgery that I'm writing up, so read
on. It is all presented from the patient's point-of-view.
Disclaimer: The information in this document is not presented by a qualified medical
professional. I did my own research, consulted with doctors and made my own decisions.
Your experience will be quite different. Chart your own course. Persons with potential
heart disease must seek proper medical advice, and not rely on information in this
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