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Inland Northern California’s first robotic mitral valve repair

(SACRAMENTO) — Kris Dyas thought he was going to the doctor’s office for help with indigestion. A routine exam, however, revealed something more frightening — problems with his heartbeat. 

Kris Dyas

Kris Dyas was up and about the day of his robotic-assisted procedure and left the hospital four days later.

An echocardiogram showed he had a leaking mitral heart valve. It caused blood to pool in his heart rather than circulate through his body. He would need surgery to fix the condition. 

“It was all pretty surprising,” Dyas said. “I kept thinking, ‘This isn’t why I came.’” 

Dyas had another surprise coming. Heart surgeon Bob Kiaii told him he was a good candidate for robotic surgery — one of Kiaii’s specialties and a key reason for his recruitment to UC Davis this year. 

While Kiaii has done robotic-assisted mitral valve repair many times, the procedure had not yet been done on a patient in Northern California. During Thanksgiving week, Dyas became the first. 

Avoiding serious heart disease later

Many patients with leaky mitral heart valves — or mitral valve regurgitation — have no symptoms at first. Eventually, they have trouble with energy and breathing. The condition can lead to an irregular heart rhythm and higher stroke risk. Even worse, it can cause heart failure, a slowing of the heart’s pumping action that is eventually fatal. 

Dyas was fortunate to get an early diagnosis. That meant he could avoid those serious consequences. Kiaii told him that traditional open heart surgery was an option, but Dyas was only 39 years old. 

“Surgical repairs for valve disease tend to last about 15 to 20 years, so Kris will need another procedure at some point,” said Kiaii, chief of cardiothoracic surgery. “Whenever possible, we want to avoid two open heart surgeries.”

mitral valve repair surgery

Cardiac surgeon Bob Kiaii sets up guides (left) for robotic arms he will use for mitral valve repair surgery. During the procedure, he controls those arms (center) using finger and foot controls at a console (right) that gives him a high-definition, 3D view of the heart.

An entire procedure through four small incisions

During the surgery, Kiaii and his team placed four robotic arms into Dyas’ body through small incisions between his ribs. He then moved to a separate console where 3D magnified imaging helped him precisely control the arms as they repaired the mitral leaflets and placed a ring around the mitral valve. Now, with this reinforcement, the valve can efficiently move blood through the heart. 

Dyas’ surgery was on Monday before the holiday and he was released that Friday. (His family was able to share some of their Thanksgiving meal with him.) Open chest surgery would have kept him in the hospital an extra three to five days.

He is now focusing on increasing his walking distance each day and looking forward to going back to work as an automotive equipment installer in about a month. He also is planning a vacation. 

“This surgery was definitely the way to go,” Dyas said. “I am so happy that I’m not stuck in bed for a month. Instead, I can plan on going to the ocean for some fishing and crabbing soon.” 

UC Davis Health surgeons are known throughout the U.S. for their leadership in robotics, the latest development in minimally invasive surgical technology. Robotic-assisted surgery offers many potential benefits over conventional open surgeries, including less pain, blood loss, infection risk, scarring, and hospital and recovery times. For information about robotic-surgery options and the surgical team UC Davis, visit our comprehensive surgical services website.