Milestones in Cardiac Surgery

JKU researchers in Linz have successfully tested a new prosthesis to replace the aortic arch.

Operation, Prof. Zierer
Operation, Prof. Zierer

Cardiac surgeon Andreas Zierer wants you to picture an expressway with exits that lead to smaller and smaller roads – this is what the body's aorta is like. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood into the body through the so-called aorta, which then branch out to further supply the body with blood from head to the toe. The three-centimeter-thick blood vessel extends from the heart in an arc, first up and then down. Zierer, a university professor at the Johannes Kepler University Linz (JKU) elaborated on why defects in this part of the aorta can be a problem: "The aortic arch supplies the head directly with oxygen-rich blood. In the past, the mortality rate for aortic arch operations was at 30%. Some patients were even wheelchair-bound after the operation." A new, special prostheses has reduced the mortality risk by 15%. The aortic arch replacement is made of a soft plastic tube reinforced by wire mesh, replacing the natural blood vessel. The blood supply to the brain has to be "reconnected" to it.

A Prosthesis That Saves Lives
According to the head of the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, the JKU played a major role as part of an international study about the latest generation of this prosthesis: "In the past two years, we operated on 38 of the 260 study participants and had the most patients in the study." 25 university centers from around the world, including London, Hamburg and Hongblutet were involved in the study. To protect the body, the core temperature was lowered to 28°C. Prof. Zierer added: "Any longer than an hour and we risked damaging the kidneys or the spinal cord, for example." By cutting the OP time in half, the survival rate becomes significantly higher and the patient can also leave the ICU sooner after the procedure.

About Andreas Zierer
The head of the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at the JKU’s Faculty of Medicine studied medicine in Innsbruck and Vienna. Beginning in 2002, he worked as a surgeon in Frankfurt and then in 2005, he spent two years in the USA at Stanford and in St. Louis. The cardiac surgeon appreciates working with patients and conducting research in both Linz and Wels. As a native of Wels, he is pleased to be back home. The 49-year-old is married and the father of two sons (16 and 7 years old) and one daughter (10 years old). He enjoys spending his free time with his family and his two Labradors. He also enjoys playing tennis and going skiing.