Dr. Bennett Performs Region’s First Robotic Valve Replacement Surgery

“Ms. Ropetski’s condition was severe,” said Dr. Bennett. “Approximately 60-65 percent of the blood that was attempting to be pushed through her left ventricle was flowing back toward her lungs. Had she not sought surgical intervention, her quality of life would have begun to deteriorate rapidly. And the fact that she chose minimally invasive robotic surgery put her on the road to recovery that much faster.”

The surgery took place on July 29. Ropetski was able to leave the hospital on August 2.

The mitral valve controls blood flow through the heart. With each heartbeat, it opens to allow blood to flow into the heart’s main pumping chamber—the left ventricle. When the left ventricle contracts to push blood through the body, the mitral valve then closes to prevent blood from flowing back into the heart toward the lungs. An abnormal or damaged mitral valve cannot completely seal the heart’s left ventricle, resulting in poor blood flow. In some cases, like Ropetski’s, a mitral valve can be repaired with surgery that rebuilds the tissue of the “leaky” valve with the help of an artificial band that provides stability.

Traditional open heart surgery requires surgeons to make a long incision and split the breast bone to reach the heart. Minimally invasive valve surgery uses smaller incisions with partial sternal splitting or through the side of the chest with rib spreading and is a highly advanced technique that is only performed at select hospitals. The da Vinci robotic system so greatly improves the visibility and instrument manipulation that it takes minimally invasive surgery to another level.

“The addition of a robot to minimally invasive cardiac procedures reduces the trauma while increasing the precision of the surgery,” Dr. Bennett says. “Three half inch incisions are used for the robotic instruments. The sutures and repair materials are passed through a ‘working port’ that is two to four inches in length depending on the procedure and patient anatomy. There is no rib spreading retractor or bone cutting which greatly reduces the pain and healing time associated with the surgery.”

In robotic surgery, which is sometimes referred to as “robotic assisted surgery,” a robotic arm equipped with laparoscopic instruments and manned by a surgeon helps attain the precision and intricacy that surgeons might not be able to achieve using their own hands. In addition, magnified computer screens give surgeons a better view of the operation site so that they are more able to avoid coming into contact with other nearby, vital structures, therefore cutting the risk of complications.

Dr. Bennett joined Albany Medical Center in February. He was previously at St. Peter’s Hospital, where he headed up that hospital’s cardiothoracic surgery program for more than a decade. He has a national reputation for minimally invasive cardiac surgical techniques and specializes in valve procedures.


Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center, is the largest private employer in the Capital Region. It incorporates the 651-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, which offers the widest range of medical and surgical services in the region, and the Albany Medical College, which trains the next generation of doctors, scientists and other healthcare professionals,  and which also includes a biomedical research enterprise and the region’s largest physicians practice with 325 doctors. Albany Medical Center works with dozens of community partners to improve the region’s health and quality of life. For more information: www.amc.edu or www.facebook.com/albanymedicalcenter.


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Jennifer Freeman
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