Middle East’s First Robotic Surgery for Rare Heart Condition Suceeds

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Surgeons at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi have completed an operation to remove a congenital heart defect using robotic technology.

The condition, known as a myocardial bridge, occurs when a band of heart muscle forms on top of one of the arteries supplying blood to the heart.

Using a rare procedure, Dr. Johannes Bonatti, chief of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Heart & Vascular Institute, and Dr. Thomas Bartel, Section Head of Interventional Cardiology, used cutting-edge robotic keyhole surgery to cut through a band of heart muscle and unblock the patient’s coronary artery.

The doctors conducted the surgery through tiny holes in the patient’s chest, making her recovery quicker and easier than it would have been if they had used traditional open-heart surgery.

“At most hospitals in the world, to conduct a surgery such as this would have involved open heart surgery and splitting the breast bone down the middle to allow access to the heart,” said Dr. Bonatti. “Instead we were able to perform the entire operation making just two small holes in the patient’s chest which reduces stress on the patient and speeds up recovery time.”

Myocardinal bridges have long been considered benign or easily treated with drugs, but recent studies have revealed that symptoms are often far more severe than doctors originally thought and can require surgery.

In this case, the patient, 26-year old Emirati Eman Abdullah Ahmad, said that even though she had been suffering from symptoms from the age of 16, doctors from a range of hospitals were unable to treat her condition effectively.

“I was very weak. I was always tired and short of breath. I found it hard to breathe. I could not do even my normal activities. If I walked for 30 minutes in the mall I had to rest for a while,” she said. “Now, just a few weeks after the operation, my friends have been amazed at the transformation. They look at me and say, you are really very active.”

Despite first visiting a number of hospitals in Dubai and even travelling to London for a consultation, doctors assured Ahmad that she was healthy and did not need treatment.

Eventually the patient sought a consultation at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

“At first the doctors there explained to me exactly what was wrong with me and prescribed some medicine,” Ahmad said. “But after two months the symptoms were just getting worse. When Dr. Bonatti told me that there was a surgical solution to my condition I was very happy. Now I feel 100 percent better than I did before the operation.”

During a career spanning more than 30 years spent in Austria, the US and the UAE, Dr. Bonatti has performed more than 4,000 heart surgeries, including more than 600 robotic procedures.