On Oct. 19, Jones used the da Vinci robot to perform mitral valve surgery on Melancon at Lafayette General Medical Center. A week later, Melancon was up and around, then released from the hospital. This was a significant change from her first cardiac surgery, where her recovery took about a month. "We wanted to avoid going through her breastbone because of her prior surgery, because of the scar and adhesions," Jones says. "And, that's big stress on anybody, much less an 85-year-old. So, we were able to go through the side of her chest, and she did really well. With the other surgery, her recovery would have been much more severe, much harder."
Today, Melancon is doing just fine. "I feel better," she says in her Cajun accent. "Before the surgery, I was hurting, and I'm not hurting anymore."
Jones performs two closed-chest valve procedures which are new to this area. The first is aortic valve surgery through a small incision in the upper chest. Most heart surgery is performed through sternotomy, which involves dividing or cracking the breastbone. Jones' technique uses small, 5-centimeter incisions through the chest to reach the aortic valve. Since moving to Lafayette two months ago, Jones has performed six aortic valve replacements using this technique.
The other minimally invasive procedure is the one he performed on Melancon, mitral valve surgery with the da Vinci robot. Jones was the first surgeon in the state to use the robot for cardiac procedures and has the most experience with a variety of robotic heart procedures nationwide. With this technique, the surgeon places instruments into the patient's chest through small "poke holes." At a console, the doctor uses two "joy sticks" to operate the arms of the robot, which are actually inside the heart. The instruments have two small hinge points, allowing the surgeon to move the instruments with a wrist-like motion to do whatever is necessary ' dissect, cut, sew ' to repair or reconstruct the valve.
While this all sounds like science fiction, Jones says this technique is perfectly safe. Since the da Vinci uses a state-of-the-art camera in 3-D and high definition, the surgeon's vision is much better with the console. "You just have finer details when you are operating with the robot, as opposed to the standard way," he says.
Most significantly, the recovery time is drastically reduced. "We are not breaking or cutting any bones," Jones says, "so patients really can get back to work in two or three weeks, as opposed to eight weeks."
After surgery, patients' limitations are what he calls "miniscule." Within a week, they have few, if any, physical restrictions. Jones cites the example of a 79-year-old Nebraska farmer who was hauling 25-pound buckets of feed to his cattle just 10 days post-surgery. "You just can't do that if you have the sternotomy," he says. "We've shown that the recovery time in the hospital is quicker as well. We've had people go home on post-operative day number two and post-operative day number three, as opposed to being in the hospital four or five days."
Additionally, the resulting scar is minimal. Open-chest procedures typically leave an 8- to 10-inch gash down the center of the torso, while closed-chest surgeries produce just a slight incision mark. In Melancon's case, she was left with small scars under her right arm and on her breast.
While robotic mitral valve surgery is relatively new ' the first case was performed in May 2007 ' the reports are encouraging so far. "We've had anecdotal results and five-year results," Jones says, "and those results, to date, are very, very positive, and show just as good a result as surgery done the old-fashioned way."
Another advantage is that just about anyone with isolated valve problems is a candidate for the surgery. Jones has used the robot on three morbidly obese women in Nebraska and performed the closed-chest valve procedure on a 400-pound man in South Carolina. "I think anyone who needs mitral valve surgery should at least be evaluated for a minimally invasive approach," he says. Currently, Jones performs 14 different cardiac procedures with the da Vinci. In fact, he did the first robotic tricuspid valve repair in the country. The tricuspid valve is located between the right atrium (top chamber) and right ventricle (bottom chamber). Its role is to make sure blood flows in a forward direction from the right atrium to the ventricle, but if it does not function properly, blood can leak backwards across the valve.
Jones is optimistic about the future of robotics, anticipating that they will expand to lung surgery. "I think the techniques will get better, and the software, the robot and the computer will get better," he says. "It will just become more of a standard of care. Five years or 10 years from now, the technology is only going to get better. The number of programs offered for robotic cardiac surgery is expanding. So, it's a technique that people need to know. [Patients] need to look at the Internet, and see what's out there for options. Because not all facilities offer this, and probably not all cardiologists are going to offer this. And patients need to know that it is available for them, and to ask for it."
Word of mouth might be the best way to educate the public, as patients like Melancon aren't shy about talking up the procedure. "Because it works ' it works good," she says emphatically.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Yeah, it's smoked venison sausage stuffed in a suckling pig stuffed in a lamb and roasted over an open fire.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Reamco founders Brent Milam and Ashley Lane now shareholders in acquiring company and part of its management team.
Low heels, high style
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
The board hopes to recover all fees paid, plus one-half, along with what could amount to hundreds of thousands in additional penalties.
Oh, the irony... or something like that.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
St. Patty's Day crafts
New menu items ready for the Lenten season
The Cane Fire Film Series screens “MaidenTrip” on Monday, March 10, at the AcA.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The vibe of the tribe done modern
The Louisiana Workforce Commission said Friday that initial claims rose to 2,125 from the previous week's total of 1,964. There were 2,887 initial claims during the comparable week in 2013.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
She’s the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, but she’s been a gifted artist in her own right for three decades, and she’s coming to Lafayette.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.