Minimally Invasive Heart Valve Repair a Game-Changer

Beauprez and Slater (Photo provided by Banner Health)

Banner cardiothoracic surgeon introduces surgery in Northern Colorado

When Jeffrey Beauprez of Wiggins agreed to be the first patient to have a robotic-assisted heart valve repair at Banner North Colorado Medical Center, he told his physician that being the first to do something was a lifelong goal. With that, Beauprez helped the cardiothoracic surgery program at Banner’s Greeley hospital introduce a higher level of care to patients in the region.

Banner cardiothoracic surgeon Dwight Slater, MD, said this type of minimally invasive surgery means patients can have life-changing heart surgery with less pain and a shorter time to recover. In this case, the patient was able to return to work in 2 weeks.

Traditional heart surgery requires a 6- to 8-inch opening and separation of the sternum so the surgeon can physically access the heart. However, the robotic-assisted mitral valve repair is done with several smaller incisions of less than 1/3 of an inch to insert the robotic tools that are controlled by the surgeon at a console. Mitral valve repair or replacement is necessary if a patient has a leaky valve.

A leaky mitral valve causes poor blood flow and symptoms including an irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing while lying flat or with exercise, swelling, fatigue, and coughing. Untreated, it can cause heart failure. With early intervention, the patient can avoid further heart damage and return to a normal lifestyle with a normal life expectancy.

Beauprez met with Dr. Slater in August 2021 when Dr. Slater first joined Banner. Beauprez knew he’d been having symptoms and shared that he did not want a valve repair through open-heart surgery. Dr. Slater asked for time to get to know his colleagues and the operating room team before scheduling the procedure. From there, Dr. Slater prepared the team rigorously going step by step and covering the “what-ifs” to make sure they were prepared.

“This wasn’t my first time doing this type of surgery, but it was the first time this team did it and we wanted to be prepared,” he said.

Now, Dr. Slater said Banner’s cardiovascular team can treat a broader scope of heart concerns. The team of diverse specialists collaborates to discuss different ways to care for each patient and determine which approach is the best for each person.

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