Emergency Information Take Over

World Leader in Robotic Heart Surgery Joins University of Maryland

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Johannes Bonatti, M.D.

Dr. Johannes Bonatti moves to Baltimore from Innsbruck, Austria

Johannes Bonatti, M.D., a heart surgeon recognized as one of the world’s most experienced in minimally invasive coronary operations using the DaVinci robot, has joined the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland. He will be a professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a cardiac surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center as of July 15, 2008.

His recruitment further builds on the University of Maryland’s expertise in minimally invasive heart procedures, enabling patients to recover much faster with fewer side effects compared to traditional operations with a large incision.

Dr. Bonatti has performed more than 300 robotic heart surgeries; most were completely endoscopic—without even a small incision. Instead, patients needed only four or five small holes in which instruments were inserted, depending on the type of operation. In endoscopic procedures, surgeons use tiny robotic instruments and a video camera to perform the operations. Only a few surgeons world-wide have experience in performing a completely endoscopic heart bypass operation.

Of the 300 robotic operations that Dr. Bonatti has performed, 240 were coronary artery bypass operations; among those were 30 double artery bypass operations. With the minimally invasive endoscopic technique, patients can return to usual activities and light exercise and after about two weeks instead of spending 2-3 months recovering after traditional bypass surgery.

“We are very fortunate that Dr. Bonatti has decided to join us. He will strengthen our leadership in performing complex operations in a minimally invasive way. With his arrival, we truly have the world’s dream team of experienced and skilled surgeons who offer our patients a minimally invasive approach to a wide range of operations,” says Stephen T. Bartlett, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chief of surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center. 

Bartley Griffith, M.D., professor and head of the Division of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Maryland, says, “Our patients will benefit from Dr. Bonatti’s extraordinary expertise in endoscopic heart surgery. He is clearly an innovator and he will complement our superb team with his skills in minimally invasive coronary bypass procedures. This fits well into our goal to offer minimally invasive procedures in all types of cardiac surgery.”

“I am looking forward to moving my program from Austria to the United States and, in particular, to the University of Maryland,” says Dr. Bonatti. “The medical center team is already familiar and working with the DaVinci robot system. We will have more resources here and greater opportunities to bring the use of the DaVinci robot into the mainstream of heart surgery.”

Dr. Bonatti adds, “My primary goal in performing heart bypass operations with the DaVinci robot is to have a perfect graft—so that the vessel will stay open and functioning for many years. Using the robot, we can perform the surgery in a very precise way without opening the chest. It is the same operation on the inside as the traditional bypass—but without the long recovery time and scar.”

Dr. Bonatti has been an attending cardiac surgeon and associate professor of surgery at Innsbruck University Hospital in Austria since 1998.  He has also worked as director of the Heart Surgery Research Laboratory at Innsbruck Medical University for the past six years.

Dr. Bonatti graduated from Innsbruck University Medical School in 1986 and performed a variety of clerkships and internships in Austria and in South Korea. He did part of his surgical residency at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond in 1989.

He started a program in minimally invasive cardiac surgery in Innsbruck in 2001 and has participated in FDA-sponsored studies of the robotic approach to coronary artery bypass surgery. Dr. Bonatti also organized a series of workshops in which cardiac surgeons and interventional cardiologists develop common strategies for the treatment of coronary artery disease.

He has served as a visiting surgeon in many countries and has trained surgeons at hospitals in Germany, the Czech Republic, Greece, Turkey, India and Australia in the use of the DaVinci robot for heart surgery.

Dr. Bonatti was a member of the Austrian Freestyle Ski National Team from 1979-1981, and later, as an emergency physician, he combined his skiing experience and his medical skills to provide helicopter rescue of injured skiers in the Alps.


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