Safer heart valve leak repair

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It's a common heart condition that can require surgery. Doctors are repairing mitral valves robotically, helping patients get back to their lives much faster.

Susan Watkins has always been active, she explains, "I walk a lot, I work out with a personal trainer at least once a week." 

She even loves horseback riding. But last year, she noticed some unusual symptoms while simply walking. 

Watkins continues, "I got winded and I knew that's not normal for me." 

An echocardiogram revealed Watkin's mitral valve was leaking and needed repair. Cardiac surgeon Douglas Murphy says a severe leak like Watkin's can take its toll on the heart.

Dr. Murphy, Chief of Cardiac Surgery, Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital, explains, "That's blood leaking backwards at high velocity." 

Watkins needed surgery to repair the valve. 

Dr. Murphy adds, "Traditionally it was, saw the sternum in half and operate from the front of the chest." 

Now Dr. Murphy and his team perform the procedure robotically, making five tiny incisions on the side of the patient.

Dr. Murphy says, "If you come from the side, the right side, it's a straight shot to the valve." 

Then the surgeon controls the robotic instruments from a console ten feet away. Because the surgery is much less invasive it reduces the risk of complications.

Dr. Murphy continues, "The number one complication in heart surgery is stroke, we see less than one percent stroke with this." 

And the recovery is much faster. Watkins spent two nights in the hospital and was exercising four weeks after surgery.

Watkins adds, "I'm not even tired, my heart rate is hardly up, I don't have any problem breathing at all, no shortness of breath."

Repairing broken hearts for a long and healthy life.

Dr. Murphy says not every patient with a mitral valve leak needs surgery. If the leak is mild, most doctors will monitor the condition closely to make sure it doesn't get worse. 

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