UPMC urging people to ‘Check Your Heart’ during National Heart Month

PITTSBURGH — February is Heart Health Month, and Channel 11 is teaming up with UPMC to encourage everyone to “Check Your Heart”.

UPMC is using cutting-edge technology in our area to help heart patients. In some cases, it’ll make the term “open-heart surgery” obsolete. Robotic surgery not only fixes the heart problem, but make it easier for patients to recover.

The robotic surgeries are happening inside UPMC’s Presbyterian and Passavant hospitals. It’s so new, there’s no video of it yet because of COVID protocols, but doctors have done countless robotic surgeries since August.

Cardiac surgeon Dr. Johannes Bonatti explained how it works.

“It’s a device with four robotic arms that reach over the patients and are docked to a patient’s chest. And there four robotic arms (that) are controlled by me while sitting behind a console. I sit in the same room, but a few meters away from the patients. I look into a binocular and see what’s happening inside the chest in 3D,” said Bonatti. “The robotic arms and the robotic instruments have more degrees of freedom than the human hand, so its capabilities go beyond what I can do with my hands.”

Doctors can use the robotic surgery for many cases, including mitral valve repairs and coronary heart disease for patients who need open-heart surgery. They can also do grafts and stents.

All the procedures done robotically have quicker recovery times.

“The surgery exposes the patient to less trauma. It’s less trauma and thereby the recovery time is shorter,” said Bonatti. “We perform these procedures through tiny holes that we call ports and small incisions on the chest, as compared to the classic heart surgery where you open the chest. Our patients that we treat robotically are back to normal usually within three to four weeks.”

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person with heart disease dies every 36 seconds.

Some of the warning signs of heart disease include pressure or tightness in the chest, a pain that radiates to the left arm especially during exercise, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.

Bonatti stressed the best way to prevent heart disease is to stay active, exercise, eat a heart-healthy diet and have regular checkups with your doctor.

“I think it’s so important to understand the role of the heart in the body,” Bonatti said. “It’s certainly the most important organ for living. So taking care of your heart is so important.”

For more on heart health, visit UPMC’s Check Your Heart website.

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