“How Do I Know If My Heart Valve Surgeon Is Good?” With Dr. Jurgen Ennker
Thanks to your excellent questions, I had several meaningful discussions at the recent 47th annual meeting of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons in San Diego, California.
For example, Peggy wrote to me, “Adam – I’m diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis. I’m curious… How do I know if my heart valve surgeon is good?” I posed that exact question to Dr. Jurgen Ennker, the chief of cardiothoracic surgery at MediClin Heart Center in Lahr, Germany which is just outside of Frankfurt.
So you know, Dr. Jurgen Ennker is a leading heart valve surgeon in Germany. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Ennker and his team have replaced over 3,000 diseased valves with the Medtronic Freestyle device (a porcine heart valve replacement).
Medtronic Freestyle Porcine Heart Valve Replacement Device
As some members of our community are hearing impaired, I created a video transcript of Dr. Jurgen Ennker’s video blog below.
Adam: Hi, everybody. It’s Adam. I’m here at The Society of Thoracic Surgeons event in San Diego, California and I’m here with Dr. Jurgen Ennker and we’re just having a discussion and it relates to one of the questions that Peggy sent it. Peggy says, “I was diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis. I’m preparing for surgery but I’m curious to know, how do I know my surgeon is good at what he does?” And Dr. Ennker, who is from Lahr, Germany (just outside of Frankfurt), and I were just having a discussion. We thought we’d talk about some interesting paths that he’s taking to share his results with his patients.
Dr. Ennker: Yes. That’s absolutely a relevant question. First, you have to know how many procedures is your surgeon doing. What is the results of the hospital? I always can tell if somebody wants to drive a car, he knows how many horse power, brakes, and air conditioning. But, if he has to choose a hospital, he virtually knows nothing, only a very subjective opinions, but we need objective data and the first thing is mortality. What were the results of your specific surgeon? What was the rate in incidents or complications of aortic valve surgery? For example stroke, it’s bleeding, it’s infection. In coronary artery surgery, it’s infection. Quality of medicine — you can measure it and there are a lot of parameters and these have to be made public. Very important. Everybody has to know what he’s going into and what are his chances and what are his risks and what is specific for the institution and his special surgeon, he’s going to choose.
Adam: And I understand, Dr. Ennker, you’re doing something unique in that you’re actually publishing your own results and you have been for several years now.
Dr. Ennker: Fifteen years ago. When I came from Berlin to our new hospital in Lahr, Germany (Black Forest), I felt an ethical obligation for every actor in the medical field to hand out results and to make transparent the medical results because it’s absolutely mandatory.
Adam: Well, you can see over there on the computer, if you haven’t seen it yet, these are actual published results from Dr. Ennker. Once again, it is as I understand, this is very unique. You’re one of the first people to do this and I just want to acknowledge you and thank you for sharing the information with our patients out there and the caregivers. Again, this is Dr. Jurgen Ennker from Lahr, Germany and thank you so much.
Dr. Ennker: Thank you so much for your input. You’re saving lives. You have great quality of medical care. It’s a great job you are doing. Congratulations.
Adam: I think we need a hug.
Dr. Ennker: Okay
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Keep on tickin!
Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.