Minimally Invasive and Robotic Heart Surgery

Husam H. Balkhy, MD Husam H. Balkhy, MD, is a leader in the field of minimally invasive and robotic cardiac surgery.

At the University of Chicago, surgeons are operating on the hearts of adults and children through tiny openings in the chest, eliminating the need for sternotomy--a large incision through the breastbone (sternum). Our heart surgeons use robotic devices, sophisticated thin instruments, miniature cameras, and hybrid techniques to perform minimally invasive procedures. These approaches offer many benefits compared to traditional, open-chest procedures.

Minimally invasive and robotic heart surgeries for adults are performed in the Center for Care and Discovery. The surgical suites in the new hospital feature sophisticated diagnostics, leading-edge medical and robotic technologies, and state-of-the-art imaging capabilities. Hybrid operating rooms unite the surgical suite and the cardiac catheterization lab, enabling surgeons and interventional cardiologists to perform multiple procedures in one setting.

Full Spectrum of Minimally Invasive and Robotic Procedures

Some of the minimally invasive procedures regularly performed by University of Chicago heart surgeons include:


It's not uncommon for our surgeons to correct more than one heart problem during a minimally invasive procedure. For example, a person who needs mitral valve repair and bypass surgery can have both problems treated during the same operation without opening the chest.

At the Forefront of Robotic Cardiac Surgery

We're one of a handful of hospitals in the world that offers a wide range of robotic approaches for heart conditions. Cardiac surgeon Husam H. Balkhy, MD, is an internationally recognized expert in this highly sophisticated technique and has performed hundreds of robotic heart procedures with excellent outcomes.

We're one of a handful of hospitals in the world that offers a wide range of robotic approaches for heart conditions.  Cardiac surgeon Husam H. Balkhy, MD, is an internationally recognized expert in this highly sophisticated technique and has performed hundreds of robotic heart procedures with excellent outcomes.
Cardiac surgeon Husam H. Balkhy, MD, is seated to the left at the da Vinci Surgical System console, where he controls the system's robotic arms to perform the surgery. A tiny camera attached to a robotic arm gives him a detailed, three-dimensional view of the operating space inside the chest. The robotic arms are very agile, providing surgeons a greater range of motion than is possible with hand-manipulated moves in standard procedures.

Benefits of Minimally Invasive and Robotic Heart Surgery

Minimally invasive and robotic heart surgery techniques offer several advantages compared to open-chest procedures, including:

  • Faster return to normal activities. Rather than waiting several weeks to heal, patients can return to work or other activities much more quickly--usually within two to three weeks.
  • Shorter hospital stay. Time spent in the hospital can sometimes be reduced by as much at 50 percent, compared to open procedures.
  • No splitting of the breastbone. Keeping the breastbone (sternum) intact reduces the chance for post-surgical complications and infection.
  • Smaller incisions. Depending upon the case, the operation may be performed through four to five dime-size incisions, or with the addition of a 2-inch incision at the side of the chest. Traditional open-heart procedures require a longer incision down the center of the chest.
  • Quicker resolution of pain. Decreased damage to tissue and muscle results in pain that does not last as long as after a sternal incision. Tylenol or aspirin are often enough to manage pain after hospital discharge.
  • Elimination of the heart-lung bypass machine, in cases of coronary bypass grafting. Avoiding the bypass machine decreases the risks for neurological complications and stroke.
  • Minimal blood loss and less need for transfusion.
  • Little scarring. Instead of a long chest scar, only a few tiny scars or a short, 2-inch scar remains.