Since autumn 2019, the Dortmund cardiac clinic has had a new director: in Dr Alexander Albert, the clinic has engaged a renowned heart surgeon with extraordinary expertise. The consultant has more than twenty years of professional experience in a leading position and is a proven specialist in several cardiological fields.
Klinikum Dortmund, one of the largest hospitals in Germany, has emphasised the importance of cardiac medicine with the appointment of Dr Alexander Albert as Head of Cardiac Surgery. The new Director of the Cardiac Centre was previously Deputy Director of Cardiac Surgery at Düsseldorf University Hospital for ten years – and helped to develop this clinic into one of the most prestigious cardiac and transplant centres. Prior to this, he spent ten years as a senior physician at the Lahr/Baden Cardia Centre, a renowned private clinic in southern Germany. He also trained in particular specialisations at the University Hospital in Jena as well as in other European countries: at the Kantponsspital Basel in Switzerland and the University Hospital in Leuven (Belgium).
With this wealth of experience and his newly established multinational team, he is now transforming the cardiac surgery department of the Klinikum Dortmund into a centre of national importance. The fact that the new Clinic Director offers patients from the surrounding area an extraordinary range of surgical treatment options compared to the rest of Germany makes the collaboration with the Klinikum Dortmund very interesting.
Responding to patients’ needs
Despite all his experience and international reputation, Dr Alexander Albert’s main focus is always the needs and wishes of the individual patient. Dr Albert believes that it is incredibly important for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures to be discussed in an interdisciplinary team. This includes not only cardiologists and general practitioners, but also the patients themselves – and their families. It’s unimportant whether the Clinic Director or one of the senior physicians attend these “Heart Team Meetings”. Rather, the most important thing is that an appropriate treatment is found, which is as minimally invasive as possible, but also offers the best possible long-term prognosis and quality of life for the patient.
Rare and complex procedures to a high standard
The new team under his leadership is set up in such a way that each heart surgeon has a specialty in which they have a great deal of experience and expertise; this means that rare or very complex procedures can be performed to a high standard. The clinic in Dortmund is able to perform even extremely difficult and rare operations, thanks to a unique mixture of concentrated research and proven practise.
The range of services offered by Dr Albert's team includes the removal of infected pacemaker probes, minimally invasive bypass and heart valve therapy, innovative aortic surgery, complex endocarditis operations – and the Ross operation, in which a defective aortic valve is replaced by the body’s own pulmonary artery valve. The Dortmund clinic also performs total heart replacements using artificial hearts.
For the Clinic Director, it is vital that the entire range of cardiac surgery options are available in order to be able to offer patients tailored treatment. Proof of expertise in the individual therapeutic areas can be seen in the CVs of the doctors and is evident in the extensive surgery catalogues. This applies not just to Dr Albert, but also his senior physicians. Publications around various cardiological topics also speak to the team’s expertise.
Leading international specialist in modern bypass surgery
Dr Albert is one of the most internationally renowned specialists in off-pump surgery and minimally invasive bypass surgery. In 2004 he completed a one-year residency with Prof. Sergeant in Belgium, at that time Europe’s leading specialist in bypass surgery without a heart-lung machine. It was this very procedure that Dr Albert then introduced at the Lahr private clinic – helping him, together with the then Clinic Director Dr Jürgen Ennker, to make the clinic a world leader in this field. Dr Albert not only advanced the field of bypass surgery, he now also heads the European training centre for minimally invasive bypass surgery at Medtronic in Dortmund.
Dr Alexander Albert is one of the few surgeons worldwide who can perform multiple bypass surgery with minimally invasive access in the course of his daily practice – and without sternotomy. Here, too, it is crucial for him to design a custom treatment concept together with the patient and their doctors. For example, individual circumstances may mean that a minimally invasive procedure is possible for one patient, but for another a combination of stent and bypass, i.e. a hybrid intervention, is better – while for another patient a classical sternotomy is the most practical option. However, Dr Albert also operates without a heart-lung machine, as this has remained the standard for him for over fifteen years.
Biological, reconstructive solutions – whenever possible
It is part of Dr Albert’s philosophy to preserve the natural, biological structures of the heart where possible. Currently available prostheses are not ideal and are associated with long-term side effects, so they are still inferior to natural tissue. So, in Dortmund heart valves are repaired wherever possible and only replaced by prostheses when there is no other option. In mitral and tricuspid valve diseases, this is achieved in over ninety percent of cases. In aortic insufficiency caused by dilatation of the anulus, the heart valve is routinely repaired by reattachment to a normalised prosthesis.
In other areas, such as advanced heart failure, every effort is made to first provide a minimally invasive treatment with as few side effects as possible before mechanical support systems are used. For example, Dortmund was recently one of the first hospitals worldwide to perform minimally invasive ventricle reconstruction using the Revivent System from Bioventrix.
Minimally invasive – for faster recovery
Dr Albert is a proven specialist in minimally invasive heart surgery. The benefit of cardiac surgery is that it creates the conditions for restoring optimum heart function and freedom from symptoms for the patient for decades to come. This is an opportunity that should not be jeopardised by the nature of the surgical approach. On the other hand, for patients it is important to maintain their bodily integrity.
In bypass surgery, it is very important to carefully consider the pros and cons of a minimally invasive procedure for the individual patient. A key factor is that Dr Albert, with his specialist expertise in minimally invasive bypass surgery, can offer this procedure at the highest standard. Dr Albert has been performing minimally invasive surgery such as mitral valve reconstruction as standard for over ten years. The replacement of the aortic valve is also performed either as a TAVI or in a minimally invasive surgical procedure with a parasternal mini-thoracotomy: Dr Albert’s team in Düsseldorf was the first in the world to perform minimally invasive implantation of cardiac support systems without the use of a heart-lung machine.
For emergencies: the “Mobile ECMO Team Dortmund”
With so much dedication to patients, it goes without saying that Dr Albert is also concerned about straightforward and immediate emergency care. For this reason, the clinic has a 24-hour hotline on which a doctor can always be reached in an emergency in Dortmund.
This year, Dr Albert founded the “Mobile ECMO-Team Dortmund” together with the Dortmund emergency services, after establishing the “Düsseldorf Survival Network” in Düsseldorf ten years ago. This ECLS network was very innovative and has received much international recognition.
The concept is to provide assistance to patients who are in refractory shock or under reanimation outside the specialised centre through a mobile ECLS system. By immediately stabilising circulation, the medical team gains time (“bridge-to-decision”) to perform further treatment steps, such as intervention, surgery, artificial heart and other measures.
Patient care even after surgery
Dr Albert is well aware that treatment can only be successful if it is gentle and effectively tailored to the individual needs of the patient. Thanks to his experience at universities and in private clinics, the empathetic specialist is naturally very familiar with explaining even the most complex issues in such a way that his patients always know what to expect. It is also important to him that he sees his patients again after their operations. From his many years of clinical practice as well as his scientific work on quality of life after cardiac surgery, he knows that patients often have a special relationship with their surgeon, and even weeks after the operation they will often still have many questions. Because of this, Dr Albert introduced a process in Dortmund which ensures every patient receives a follow-up appointment with their surgeon around two months after their operation. This innovative approach underlines how much Dr Albert values patient wellbeing.
Cardiac patients in the Ruhr region therefore have an excellent point of contact – and not just in emergencies. Locals know that there is an extraordinary heart surgeon with an enormous range of services directly on site who manages the Cardiac Surgery Clinic in Dortmund and its affiliated Cardiac Centre.
Coronary heart disease
Aortic valve disease
Mitral valve diseases
Right-sided valve diseases
Complications of coronary heart disease (wall aneurysm, infarction VSD, ischemic ventricular rupture, papillary muscle rupture)
Aneurysms of the ascending aorta and the aortic arch