On October 23, 2023, Dr. med. Thomas Schmitz from the UMFST-UMCH Teaching Hospital in Essen, the Elisabeth Hospital, was a speaker at the ReachHigher lecture series at the Hamburg Campus to talk about the minimally invasive replacement of the aortic valve, an innovative cardiovascular treatment.
Minimally invasive replacement of the aortic valve, also known as TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve implantation), is a procedure that significantly reduces the need for traditional open heart surgery. This procedure offers hope for patients with aortic valve stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve that can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath and weakness. Underscoring the importance of this procedure, Dr. Schmitz explained that a large proportion of people suffering from aortic valve stenosis are unable to climb stairs or perform other daily activities. He identified the three main causes of aortic valve stenosis as congenital malformations, increasing calcification of the valve with age – the most common cause – and rheumatic fever, which can also lead to a narrowing of the valve.
At ReachHigher, Dr. Schmitz also discussed how the procedure has been significantly improved since its introduction in 2002. The procedure, which used to take up to five hours, is now performed in just 35 minutes. The complication rate has dropped significantly during this time. To illustrate his point, the Essen physician showed the UMCH students videos of the procedure and posed the question: Who should not be treated if the procedure is so safe?
The lecture, in which Dr. Schmitz repeatedly posed questions and thus created an interactive atmosphere that was well received by the students, ended with an outlook on the further development of the procedure. He concluded by explaining that the procedure is constantly being improved and the complication rate is decreasing. All in all, Dr. Schmitz gave the students a fascinating insight into the world of minimally invasive aortic valve replacement and demonstrated how this procedure can improve the lives of patients, especially the elderly.
In addition to his position as Chief Physician of the Clinic for Cardiology and Angiology at the Elisabeth Hospital, Dr. Schmitz is also Chief Physician of Interventional Cardiology and Past Speaker of the Interventional Cardiology Working Group (“Arbeitsgruppe Interventionelle Kardiologie”, AGIK) of the German Society of Cardiology (“Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kardiologie”, DGK).