Galway consultant first in Ireland to use Da Vinci robot to carry out heart op

Mr Fabio Bartolozzi, a Galway based hospital consultant - who is the only surgeon in Ireland to perform a cardiothoracic surgery procedure using the da Vinci robotic system - will be in the audience at the Late Late Show on Friday night to discuss it.

Mr Bartolozzi, a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at the Galway Clinic, will contribute to the RTE show discussion on robotic surgery.

An exciting advance in surgery in the last decade, the da Vinci system places a computer interface between the surgeon and the patient allowing technology to refine and assist the actions of the surgeon. It allows the surgeon to perform minimally invasive or “keyhole” surgery with accuracy and precision using small incisions. It was originally developed by NASA for operating on astronauts in space from earth and the Department of Defence in the United States to operate on soldiers on battlefields.

The surgeon - who has spent the past 10 years working in Irish hospitals, including the Mater, St James’ and the Blackrock Clinic - before moving to Galway in 2004 to set up the west of Ireland’s first cardiothoracic surgery department at the Galway Clinic - carried out his groundbreaking first Irish robotic thoracic procedure late last month. This followed intense training in France and Germany.

His patient was a 34-year-old man suffering from congenital emphysema. He had been admitted to hospital on two occasions, two years ago and more recently in the week before the operation.

“He was suffering from severe symptoms, chest pain and discomfort because his lung had collapsed,” explains Mr Bartolozzi who was the first surgeon to perform cardiac surgery in the west of Ireland at the Galway Clinic in September 2004.

The operation lasted two and a half hours and the patient recovered well, being discharged within three days.

Mr Bartolozzi is excited about the future applications of robotic surgery which was first performed in Galway by Galway Clinic consultant urologists Paddy O’Malley, Dave Bouchier Hayes and Said Jaffrey.

“When you are doing procedures using a robot you are two metres away from the patient, your 3D vision is enhanced by 12 times and the robot is performing with millimetric precision the surgical movements. We expect to increase the number of cases we perform. We can also perform heart by-pass surgery on selected patients and heart valve surgery using this robotic system.

The benefits for patients may include less pain, a reduced hospital stay and a faster return to normal daily activities.

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