Britain is leading the world in heart surgery after using a robotic arm for the first time to “short circuit” a patient’s heart.
The team from Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital managed to burn away a rogue piece of conducting tissue using a wire probe, to slow a heart that was beating too fast.
An X-ray enabled surgeons to steer a catheter through veins from the groin to the heart without having to stand over the patient while wearing a heavy apron to shield them from X-rays.
The robot is fixed to the bed and can be operated from a separate room, allowing the surgeon to watch the X-ray images on a screen while using very fine, accurately targeted movements to control the catheter.
The patient, a 70-year-old man from Burton-upon-Trent, had been brought to the hospital with an atrial heart flutter.
The disorder causes the heart’s atrial chambers to contract in very rapid but weak beats, preventing blood from being pumped efficiently to vital organs.
After the procedure, the condition was completely cured.
Lead surgeon Dr Andre Ng, consultant cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital and senior lecturer in cardiovascular sciences at the University of Leicester, said: “The new robotic procedure is an important step forward because, while some procedures are straightforward, others can take several hours.
“The benefit of the robotics system to the patient is that movement of the catheter could be done with great precision. It is anticipated that further developments of the system may allow complex procedures to be made more streamlined.”
The Leicester team is the first in the world to use it in human patients.