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Chuck Barnes

Physicians perform robotic-assisted mitral valve surgery

Chuck Barnes of Elk River wasn't going to let heart surgery get in the way of an October hunting trip. Less than two weeks after surgery to repair his mitral valve, Barnes was shooting antelope in Wyoming.

"Most patients are just starting to get up and around in that time," said Cardiothoracic Surgeon Brian Tell, MD.

Dr. Tell and Cardiothoracic Surgeon Jong Kim, MD, performed Barnes' surgery September 24 at Mercy Hospital.

Dr. Tell says that Barnes' quick recovery was due to robotic-assistance with the da Vinci Surgical System. The robot allows smaller chest wall incisions.

Barnes wasn't afraid to be Mercy's first robotic-assisted mitral valve surgery patient. "I definitely thought it was worth trying," said Barnes. "I did not want a big incision down my front."

Three scars, about the size of pencil erasers, on the right side of his chest are the only evidence of Barnes' surgery and explain where instruments were inserted to repair his heart.

  • The robot's camera was inserted into one incision. The surgical site is viewed 10 times its actual size on a high-definition television.
  • Instruments, sometimes more nimble than human hands, used to cut, grasp and sew tissue are inserted into the other two incisions. The surgeon controls the instruments, but the robot filters the movements to remove hand tremors.

In addition to small scars, other evidence of surgery is that Barnes feels better. He has had heart murmurs "all his life" but no symptoms, until recently when he started to tire more easily.

Tests showed mitral valve prolapse. The valve separating the upper and lower chambers of Barnes' heart was in need of repair. Because the rest of his heart is healthy, he was a good candidate for minimally invasive surgery.

"Now I'm perfect," Barnes said. "I feel great."