Robot Lends a Hand in Heart Bypass Operation

A robot yesterday helped with a heart operation for the first time in Israel. The seven-hour heart bypass surgery was performed at Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva.

The new technology is already in use in some of the most advanced medical centers in the world, but this is the first time this equipment, valued at $600,000, has been used here. Senior surgeons, hospital management, Health Maintenance Organization representatives, visiting doctors from France, and a delegation from the German company that manufactures the robot watched the operation.

The robot was scheduled to be used last week, but hospital sources say a number of patients refused to be guinea pigs for surgery using such new equipment.

The six-member team performing the surgery, including Dr. Alon Shtempler and Dr. Aharon Abramovitch, who underwent months of training in using the robot in Germany and France.

Until now the robot has been used in training at a Beilinson laboratory and in heart-bypass surgery on pigs.

On Sunday, the robot was used in a limited capacity during a heart-bypass operation, in making an incision in the chest cavity of a patient. Following the incision, the patient underwent a traditional heart-bypass surgery.

The surgeon guided the three armed robot, which responded to voice instructions, to make a small incision and guide an endoscope. Inside the body the scope displays the interior of the chest cavity on a large screen and the surgeon guides it using joysticks.

The use of the robot enables heart-bypass surgery to take place without the need to cut through bone and cartilage. The new method also does not require any disconnecting of the heart, which is a normal procedure during regular heart-bypass operations.

Beilinson hospital announced that following the operation the robot required no further testing before being moved to routine use in heart-bypass operations. The hospital administration said the Health Ministry has already issued its approval for the new equipment.