Professor Martin Misfeld, Co-Director of Research, Cardiothoracic Department, RPAH
Senior Consultant, University Department for Cardiac Surgery, Heart Centre, Leipzig
It was in Frankfurt, Germany, when Ludwig Rehn performed the first documented heart operation on the 9th of September 1896. He closed a hole in the heart of Wilhelm Justus, who was injured in a knife attack. Since then, cardiac surgery has undergone tremendous developments.
Modern cardiac surgery includes less invasive procedures. With a minimally invasive approach, heart valves can be repaired or replaced, and coronary artery bypass surgery can be performed. The aortic valve for example can be operated on via a small incision in the upper right chest. Access to the mitral and tricuspid valve in contrast, is performed by through the space between the ribs on the right side of the chest. These procedures can also be performed with the support of a robot, which has already been introduced at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. In selected patients, Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) can be done through a small incision on the left side of the chest. This procedure is performed on the beating heart. In almost all CABG procedures, it is possible to operate without the use of the heart-lung-machine on the beating heart. This technique is called off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery (OPCAB). It has the advantage of avoiding any manipulation of the aorta and as a result reducing the risk of perioperative stroke.
All modern techniques result in less trauma during surgery and patients recover much faster from the procedure. It is important to know, that each technique requires adequate training and expertise.
The cooperation between the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Leipzig Heart Center, Europe`s number one cardiac centre, aims to expand these procedures in a variety of ways:
- By introducing specific techniques for the benefit of the patients by experienced surgeons,
- By educating young surgeons in these techniques eg. lectures, wet lab courses, surgical assistance,
- By evaluating clinical results of these procedures with cooperative research projects and finally
- By further improving these techniques, developing specific instruments and cooperating national and internationally on different levels.
Today, modern cardiac surgery can offer each patient individualized treatment with optimal surgical results, fast recovery and excellent long-term outcomes. It is important research that has taken place over the years that has got us to where we are today.