WVU Heart and Vascular Institute surgeons perform the first fully robotic aortic valve replacement in the northeastern U.S.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Lawrence Wei, MD, and Sarah Buches, scrub technician, at the table side while Vinay Badhwar, MD, performs the procedure from the Da Vinci robotic console.

Surgeons at the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute have performed a fully robotic aortic valve replacement operation done through a small opening in a patient’s side. According to national robotic surgery industry leaders, this was the ninth time this procedure has ever been performed and the first time in the northeastern region of the United States.

Robotic aortic valve replacement allows patients to avoid the standard or even less invasive open-heart procedure and its lengthy recovery. It has the potential to emerge as an alternative to an open aortic valve replacement for patients who are not appropriate candidates for other open or transcatheter approaches due to health or complex anatomy. The robotic approach, like the open procedure, allows the surgeon to visualize the anatomy, remove the diseased valve, and more precisely place the replacement valve.

“The ability to perform this procedure robotically enables us to offer another platform to treat aortic stenosis or regurgitation with a durable valve solution,” Vinay Badhwar, MD, executive chair of the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, said. “This is particularly relevant when patients at lower risk may be considered for alternative options to treat aortic valve disease.”

The patient, Chip McVey, 69 of Beckley, was discharged with minimal to no pain from the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute four days after the procedure. He is recovering well at home.

McVey said he was initially nervous about having an open procedure until Dr. Badhwar presented the idea of doing the replacement robotically.

“Dr. Badhwar spent nearly an hour talking to me, explaining how the surgery could be done without opening my chest, which is really what I was afraid of,” McVey said. “When he finished and told me how much longer my life could be if I had a valve replacement, I felt good about having the surgery and knew I was in good hands. I didn’t know that we had a hospital in the state that could do such advanced surgeries like this. I’m glad I came to WVU Medicine because the doctors and nurses made me felt like this was the right place to be.”

The team of doctors at the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute have already performed a second robotic aortic valve replacement procedure with similar results, and they have several more scheduled.

“This is a fantastic feat for our surgeons at the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute,” Partho Sengupta, MD, chief of Cardiology at the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, said. “It is an incredible opportunity to be able to apply new technologies and spearhead innovative procedures. This provides us with an alternative option to transcatheter aortic valve therapies or conventional surgery for appropriate patients.”

For more information on the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, visit WVUMedicine.org/Heart.