The University of Arizona
Department of Surgery

Benefits and Risks

There are no certainties in medicine. As with any medical procedure, there are risks associated with heart surgery. Your physician team can provide you with all your treatment options and how patients similar to you have reacted. 

You are the Surgical Team Leader

Ultimately, it is your choice to undergo any medical procedure. Make sure you understand the benefits and risks of each option. We strongly encourage you to explore all non-surgical and less-invasive treatments such as medication and angioplasty in addition to robotic surgery. If you have any questions, feel free to ask your surgeon, cardiologist and/or primary physician. Remember that you always have the final say on your health and deserve to be well informed.

Since the robotic minimally invasive approach is a recent development, its track record is not as established as the decades-old traditional bypass surgery. Fewer procedures are documented, and the outcomes are less certain. However, published literature of surgeons who have performed 100 or more procedures suggests that the short- and long-term outcomes of robotic minimally invasive bypass surgery are similar to those of the traditional approach with some notable positive differences. 

 « View Coronary Artery Disease and Closed-chest Surgical Options

Dr. Robert Poston, Chief of the Division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, provides a fascinating look at traditional coronary bypass surgery compared to the robotic minimally invasive robotic surgery procedure available at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and its teaching hospital, University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona.

For more information read the study by Dr. Robert Poston et al.
Comparison of Economic and Patient Outcomes With Robotic Minimally Invasive Versus Traditional Off-Pump Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting Techniques

Benefits and Risks of Robotic Minimally Invasive Bypass Surgery

The following document was created to help inform our patients about all options for treatment. Once you understand your treatment choices, you and your doctor can discuss what’s important to you and make the decision together. The treatment decision often depends on how you feel about your angina symptoms and how much risk you are willing to take to try to relieve them. Read the full Shared Decision Making document.

Notable Differences with Robotic Minimally Invasive Techniques:

Stroke: Robotic minimally invasive techniques may reduce the risk of stroke after surgery. They utilize what is called a “no touch” approach that is less likely to dislodge stroke-causing plaque from the aorta.

Cognitive difficulties still do occur with robotic minimally invasive techniques, but there is preliminary evidence to suggest that these changes may be less severe.

Need for Repeat Procedures: After traditional bypass surgery, the bypass grafts (particularly vein grafts from the legs) may narrow. In severe cases angioplasty or another bypass may be needed. An advantage of robotic minimally invasive heart surgery is that it uses two internal mammary arteries which have less risk of narrowing than vein grafts.

Wound Complications: Avoiding the long incision in the sternum can reduce the risk of infection and healing problems. Bone incisions are always more difficult to heal than the incisions between the ribs used in robotic minimally invasive surgery.

Other Differences for most Patients:

  • Shorter hospital stays (usually 3 to 4 days vs. 6 days)
  • Faster recovery times (3 weeks vs. 2 months)
  • Quicker returns to daily and professional activities
  • Smaller incisions with minimal scarring
  • Fewer side effects and complications
  • Less bleeding and fewer transfusions
  • Less trauma to the patient, including quicker resolution in pain
  • Decreased use of pain medications
  • Decreased risks of infection

This is a general summary of the risks and benefits of robotic bypass surgery. You may have conditions, such as diabetes and lung problems, that put you at a greater risk of problems. Discuss all your medical conditions, history and medications with your surgeon so that you can understand the risks and benefits of this procedure as they apply to you

Make an Appointment

For the best cardiothoracic surgical care in Tucson, Southern Arizona or the Southwest, make an appointment by calling (520) 626-6339 (Tucson).


What Our Patients Say

Patient Mathews

Paul Mathews recounts his story from believing he had indigestion to becoming a grateful patient of Dr. Robert Poston at University Medical Center.

Patient Wakefield

Ms. Wakefield underwent closed-chest bypass surgery just five weeks before this recording where she shares significant advantages to the new surgical techniques using robotic surgery available in Arizona only with Dr. Poston's surgical team.

Patient Fish

After seeing his normally tough brother's grueling and painful experience with traditional heart-bypass surgery, Larry Fish flew over 2,000 miles to Tucson for the innovative, robotic minimally invasive closed-chest bypass surgery .