Cardiac surgery

The Cardiac Surgery Department treats patients who require a surgical correction.

Although many patients can be treated using catheter techniques some patients will be referred to the Cardiac Surgery Department for heart surgery.

The department assures the surgical treatment of cardiac diseases in adults and mainly treats heart rhythm problems in children and adolescents.

Minimally invasive techniques are used daily for all aspects of cardiac surgery in order to reduce the surgical trauma and to offer patients a better cosmetic result.


Patients who cannot be treated with catheter techniques or for whom this treatment is insufficient, will undergo a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft.

Depending on their age and other potential risk factors, such as a limited lung function and even diabetes, the surgeon will use artery grafts as much as possible. These will be taken from the chest or (more frequently) from the patient's left arm. Where necessary an artery graft will be removed from the patient's lower limb (exceptionally: thigh). This operation is carried out with or without the heart-lung machine.

Here too we make use of minimally invasive surgery. Some patients will undergo one or more bypasses through a small incision on the left side of their chest. A robot or camera is used to remove the artery grafts from the inside of the chest. This technique is becoming increasingly popular, in combination with catheter techniques.

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Heart valve operations are always carried out using the heart-lung machine. The surgeon will choose to use a mechanical or biological valve depending on the patient's age and heart rhythm. In many cases one or several valves can be repaired.

Minimally invasive techniques (small incisions) are frequently used for these valve operations.

Heart valve operations are also frequently carried out in combination with a bypass of the coronary arteries or corrections of other defects such as arrhythmias.

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The Heart Surgery Department is increasingly focusing on the surgical treatment of various types of arrhythmias. Atrial fibrillation is treated during keyhole surgery, sometimes in combination with catheter techniques.

The implantations of pacemakers and defibrillators (ICD) are increasingly carried out using minimally invasive techniques. This is especially important for young patients, whether children or young adults, because it does not require the implantation of electrodes in the heart.

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Other open heart surgical procedures, such as congenital heart disease in adults, the removal of heart tumours, the repair or replacement of a widened aorta are carried out regularly. In the case of the latter our surgeons increasingly prefer a valve-saving operation.

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Patients suffering from life-threatening problems due to heart pump failure or lung failure are regularly treated with temporary support by a mobile artificial heart-lung machine (ECMO). In the future this service will also be offered to other hospitals in the region. Patients can then be transferred to the UZ with mobile artificial heart units.

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Patients with extensive diseases of the aorta are treated with a combination of surgical and cardiovascular techniques in consultation with the vascular surgery department.

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