Catholic Health Heart Center First in Area to Offer New Minimally Invasive Surgery for Coronary Artery Disease

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February 22, 2012


John Bell-Thomson, MD and his patient Edward Zimmerman of Derby, NY, pictured in center, gather with hospital officials and the Mercy surgical team on February 22.

The letters TECAB may not mean anything to the average person, but if you’re one of the 16 million Americans who suffer from chest pain, shortness of breath, or are at risk of a heart attack due to coronary heart disease, it may be the best acronym you’ve heard in years.

TECAB, which stands for totally endoscopic coronary artery bypass, is the latest advancement in minimally invasive heart surgery for patients suffering from coronary heart disease, a condition in which the arteries that supply blood to the heart are blocked or narrowed.

TECAB News Conference - 3:26

A news conference was held to announce breakthrough heart surgery offered at the Catholic Health Heart Center at Mercy Hospital, called totally endoscopic coronary artery bypass surgery (TECAB).

One of Few Hospitals Nationwide to Offer This Latest Advancement

The Catholic Health Heart Center at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, the area leader in minimally invasive cardiac surgery, is one of only a handful of centers nationwide offering this revolutionary procedure that is performed ”robotically” through tiny, fingertip-sized portholes, versus a large incision to open the chest with traditional heart surgery.

Dr. John Bell-Thomson, chair of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Department at Mercy Hospital, is one of only a few surgeons in the United States performing minimally invasive TECAB surgery using the da Vinci® Robotic Surgical System. He has performed over 10 TECAB procedures since the fall of 2011.

On February 8, 2012, he successfully completed a double coronary artery bypass surgery for the first time using the TECAB procedure. His patient was able to return home from the hospital just two days later.

“I am pleased to be able to offer my patients this new medical breakthrough in heart surgery,” said Dr. Bell-Thomson. “High-precision robotic-assisted surgery is helping us pioneer a new standard for coronary bypass surgery with significant benefits to our patients, including faster recovery, less risk for complications, and less discomfort and scarring.”

TECAB Robotic-assisted Heart Surgery vs. Open Heart Surgery - 1:42

Dr. John Bell-Thomson, chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Mercy Hospital, talks about the advantages of TECAB robotic-assisted heart surgery versus traditional open heart surgery.

At Mercy Hospital, Dr. Bell-Thomson performs the closed-chest TECAB procedure on the beating heart without the aid of a heart-lung bypass machine, which can further reduce the risk of neurological complications and stroke.

Advantages of Off-pump Heart Surgery - 2:28

Dr. John Bell-Thomson discusses the benefits of off-pump heart surgery, which means the surgery is performed without the use of a heart-lung machine.

The surgical robot’s instruments enable the surgeon to “see” highly magnified, three-dimensional images inside the patient’s chest and perform complex surgical maneuvers with more precision than the human hand. This is especially important, since the entire procedure is done inside the chest cavity on arteries that are 2 to 3 millimeters in diameter.

Faster Recovery, Minimal Scarring

Following TECAB surgery, most patients spend about one to three days in the hospital and can usually eat, drink and walk around within hours after the procedure. Besides eliminating the need for a 6 to 10 inch incision down the chest, the TECAB procedure allows patients to return to normal activities within two to three weeks after the surgery. In comparison, a patient undergoing traditional, open chest surgery experiences a 5 to 7 day hospital stay and a 4 to 8 week recovery time.

Surgeons at Catholic Health’s Mercy Hospital of Buffalo utilize the da Vinci System for a variety of minimally invasive robotic surgical procedures, including cardiac, general, gynecological and urological surgery. In 2005, Mercy Hospital was one of the first hospitals in the Western New York region and one of the earliest in the country to acquire the da Vinci® Robotic Surgical System.