Catalan hospitals perform Spain's first robotic pediatric heart surgery

Sant Joan de Déu and Clínic hospitals set up joint congenital heart disease center

L'Iu fent-se un electro a Sant Joan de Déu
L'Iu fent-se un electro a Sant Joan de Déu / Àlex Recolons

ACN | @agenciaacn | Esplugues de Llobregat

April 8, 2024 05:29 PM

Barcelona's Sant Joan de Déu and Clínic hospitals have joined forces to create a center for the treatment of congenital heart diseases in children.Around 600 children are born with a heart defect every year in Catalonia. The goal is to make sure these children can "live longer and better" by taking advantage of constantly evolving medical advances. 

Out of these 600 children, 30% have serious heart disease and 95% reach adulthood, but with specific needs due to their condition. 

The collaboration between the two hospitals means there will be "a turning point in the treatment of patients with congenital heart diseases," Catalan Health Minister Manel Balcells, said. 

The hospitals' plan is to perform a dozen surgeries per year using robots, as Daniel Perea, director of the new center, said during a press conference on Monday. 

Experts have calculated that around 20% of all open-heart surgeries could be done with robots. 

First in Spain 

Robotic cardiac surgery has already been used before for adults, as the surgical instruments used are sized for adults. This is the biggest barrier doctors find in using this method on young people. 

The center is now the first in Spain to use robotic cardiac surgery to operate on children, a 13-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy. The boy was operated on a few months ago and has since been able to live a normal life, according to his doctor, Esther Aurensanz. 

The boy explained during the press conference that he has even been playing football since he had the surgery.  

Robotic cardiac surgery is less invasive than open-heart surgery. The robots allow there to be a few small incisions in the side of the chest area, instead of one big incision in the middle of the chest. 

"My brother had heart surgery and has a very large scar that shocks me when I see it. I feared that I would have the same scar," the boy said. 

The use of robots for cardiac surgeries in pediatric patients "is pioneering in Catalonia and means an important change in post-surgery recovery," Balcells added. 

The new center will have two headquarters, one in each hospital, and a team of 23 surgeons in the cardiovascular, cardiological and pediatric departments alongside anesthesiologists.