Less is Mohr - Minimally Invasive Mitral Valve Surgery
23. Februar 2017
23. Februar 2017
07. April 2017 (online)
The history of the Heart Center in Leipzig is rich in contributions to the evolution of mitral valve repair and replacement. As early as 1996, and within 2 years of its existence, a minimally invasive mitral valve program had been established there. The so-called port-access technique originally invented and engineered in Stanford, California, United States, included a perfusion platform for femoro–femoral cannulation, intra-aortic balloon occlusion, a percutaneous retrograde cardioplegia delivery system, and a pulmonary artery vent. A specially designed set of long-shafted instruments completed the port-access system, which allowed access to the mitral valve through a very limited right thoracotomy. After extensive training in animals, the procedure was performed in humans in a “CE” certification trial in Leipzig. Along with the proof of concept that the procedure was feasible and good repairs were achieved without a median sternotomy, at the same time several severe complications immediately dampened the initial enthusiasm. The initial series revealed a dismal clinical outcome with a 9.8% mortality and a high incidence of iatrogenic aortic dissection that could be largely attributed to the relatively stiff catheter system in conjunction with retrograde perfusion. When these data were first presented at the 77th Annual Meeting of The American Association for Thoracic Surgery in May 1997, the audience was thrilled by two facts: first Friedrich Mohr showed the feasibility of a true minimally invasive approach, but at the same time he honestly admitted the procedural risks and limitations of the technique. In the subsequent discussion, some judged Friedrich Mohr as an irresponsible and technically inferior surgeon while others, among them later friend and mentor Randolph Chitwood, acknowledged the pioneering effort and the courage it took to present these data truthfully. This landmark presentation held early in his career as the chief of a largely unknown hospital in former East Germany laid the foundation for the great respect among his peers and created the branding of the Heart Center as a center promoting innovation in conjunction with a sound evaluation of technologies.
As soon as 2 years after the first successful attempt of a minimally invasive mitral valve repair, the procedure had been standardized and was performed on a daily basis. At the same time, a voice-controlled robot was introduced as a camera holding device to allow seamless steering of the endoscope. Initially used in laparoscopic procedures the AESOP 3000 was used to enable “solo mitral valve surgery.” This was arguably the first report of “robot-assisted cardiac surgery.” At East Carolina University, Randolph Chitwood and his team had meanwhile developed a transcutaneous aortic clamp to facilitate minimally invasive mitral surgery. This technique simplified the procedure and was rapidly adopted by the team in Leipzig, which now got the attention of referring cardiologists throughout Germany as an emerging center for mitral valve repair.
While limited access surgery continued to evolve the focus was also on refining repair and replacement techniques. Together with von Oppeln, a new technique for chordal replacement, the so-called “loop”-technique was developed ([Fig. 1]). This technique followed a philosophy of “respect rather than resect,” which was later adopted and modified by many surgeons. In 2008, Kuntze et al reported the outcomes of 632 patients who underwent mitral valve repair using the premeasured loop-technique. In the same year, the results of a randomized controlled trial comparing this technique with standard resection techniques for P2-prolapse showed improved leaflet coaptation with the loop technique.
While trying to improve mitral valve repair the Leipzig group also participated in several valve replacement trials. Among them, a chordally supported stentless mitral valve replacement preserving the atrioventricular continuity was explored.
The millennium marked the event of total endoscopic computer enhanced “robotic” surgery. California-based Intuitive Surgical, Inc., Sunnyvale, USA, had developed a telemanipulator which was able to transfer six degrees of freedom of motion of the human wrist into the tip of remotely controlled instruments. For the first time, this masterpiece of engineering allowed wrist-like motion through a trocar. Together with the team of Prof. Carpentier and Dr. Loulmet in Paris, the Leipzig team systematically explored the potential of telemanipulator-assisted surgery ([Fig. 2]). After extensive animal and cadaver research, the first commercially available Da Vinci system was installed at the Heart Center in Leipzig and used for endoscopic mitral valve repair procedures ([Fig. 3]). In 2001, the group reported the outcomes of the first 148 patients undergoing this kind of surgery in Leipzig, then the largest series in the world. The article documented the feasibility and safety of minimally invasive mitral valve repair using remotely controlled instruments with six degrees of freedom along with three-dimensional (3D) endoscopic vision. In the following years, many surgical groups visited Leipzig to learn the technique of robotic surgery.
Meanwhile, minimally invasive techniques became routine and indications were expanded also to reoperations. The concept of avoiding reentry injury, extensive dissection of the heart and protecting patent grafts allowed for safe access to the mitral valve. In 2002, the outcomes of the first series of 39 patients undergoing minimally invasive mitral valve repair or replacement in a redo setting were reported. In 2009, the group again reported excellent outcomes in 181 patients undergoing redo surgery using the minimally invasive access. The technique was further expanded to treat functional mitral insufficiency in patients with cardiomyopathies and severely impaired left ventricular function as well as treating concomitant tricuspid regurgitation and atrial fibrillation. In 2008, Seeburger et al published the outcomes of 1,536 patients who had undergone minimally invasive mitral valve surgery in Leipzig. This was one of the largest series worldwide and demonstrated the evolution of this procedure into a routine operation. Further analysis revealed repair rates of over 90% for all pathologies including anterior and bileaflet prolapse with excellent long-term outcomes. Special reports on anterior leaflet repair and the special considerations of a minimally invasive approach in Barlow disease were subsequently published.  In 2012, the reported cohort included already more than 3,000 patients.
Along with the positive outcomes, the Leipzig group continued to raise awareness for potential pitfalls and problems and shared also the negative aspects of new techniques. A systematic analysis of circumflex coronary artery injury during mitral interventions, an underreported problem, got a lot of attention. In 2013, Holzhey presented a landmark article in circulation discussing the impact of individual surgical experience on outcomes of minimally invasive mitral valve repair. By analyzing the outcomes of 17 surgeons who had trained at the Heart Center in Leipzig and using CUSUM (cumulative sum) analysis he could show that a minimum number, frequency, and differences in talent determine the outcomes of this procedure.
With smaller access and more sophisticated repair concepts becoming routine the need for advanced imaging became obvious. The Leipzig group was among the first to explore the added benefits of 3D echo which initially was not real-time and required long acquisition and reconstruction times. With the evolution of the technique methods for augmented reality for advanced procedural planning were developed using ring templates superimposed on 3D echo data. 
As a pioneering center in transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) very early in the experience, the feasibility of minimally invasive transapical repeat valve-in-valve (VinV) and valve-in-ring implantation was systematically developed via a retrograde transapical and an antegrade transatrial approach.   This groundbreaking work, led by Walther and Kempfert, laid the foundation for transcatheter VinV therapy. The experiments were performed in the on-site experimental hybrid suite, which had been installed at the Leipzig Heart Center to facilitate research in the field of transcatheter techniques. Mohr had anticipated the potential of these techniques and wanted the center to be prepared as a preclinical and clinical teaching facility long before TAVI entered the clinical arena. The experimental hybrid suite was subsequently used by many surgical groups to train transcatheter techniques and became a cornerstone of the Leipzig Heart Center research and teaching facility.
In 2012, the next evolutionary step in minimizing the surgical trauma of mitral valve repair was achieved with transapical neochord implantation on the beating heart, first experimentally and later in clinical practice as the leading center of the TACT (Transapical Artificial Chordae Tendinae) trial.  It was also soon recognized that transcatheter techniques were entering the mitral arena and must be mastered by surgeons. As a result, surgeons in the Leipzig team resumed an active role in percutaneous repair and replacement techniques.
In close collaboration with national and international leaders as well as industry, countless innovations and modifications in technology and techniques have been developed for mitral valve disease at the Heart Center in Leipzig. The major contribution, however, was the constant effort to train surgeons in-house and from other institutions in mitral valve repair. Several courses, countless live transmissions to major meetings, including the EACTS Techno College (EACTS House, United Kingdom), and an active fellowship program have helped to spread the Leipzig school of mitral valve surgery nationally and internationally.
- 1 Falk V, Walther T, Diegeler A , et al. Echocardiographic monitoring of minimally invasive mitral valve surgery using an endoaortic clamp. J Heart Valve Dis 1996; 5 (6) 630-637
- 2 Mohr FW, Falk V, Diegeler A, Walther T, van Son JA, Autschbach R. Minimally invasive port-access mitral valve surgery. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 1998; 115 (3) 567-574 , discussion 574–576
- 3 Mohr FW, Onnasch JF, Falk V , et al. The evolution of minimally invasive valve surgery—2 year experience. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 1999; 15 (3) 233-238 , discussion 238–239
- 4 Falk V, Walther T, Autschbach R, Diegeler A, Battellini R, Mohr FW. Robot-assisted minimally invasive solo mitral valve operation. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 1998; 115 (2) 470-471
- 5 von Oppell UO, Mohr FW. Chordal replacement for both minimally invasive and conventional mitral valve surgery using premeasured Gore-Tex loops. Ann Thorac Surg 2000; 70 (6) 2166-2168
- 6 Kuntze T, Borger MA, Falk V , et al. Early and mid-term results of mitral valve repair using premeasured Gore-Tex loops (‘loop technique’). Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2008; 33 (4) 566-572
- 7 Falk V, Seeburger J, Czesla M , et al. How does the use of polytetrafluoroethylene neochordae for posterior mitral valve prolapse (loop technique) compare with leaflet resection? A prospective randomized trial. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2008; 136 (5) 1205-1206 , discussion 1205–1206
- 8 Walther T, Walther C, Falk V , et al. Early clinical results after stentless mitral valve implantation and comparison with conventional valve repair or replacement. Circulation 1999; 100 (19, Suppl): II78-II83
- 9 Falk V, Autschbach R, Krakor R , et al. Computer-enhanced mitral valve surgery: toward a total endoscopic procedure. Semin Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 1999; 11 (3) 244-249
- 10 Mohr FW, Falk V, Diegeler A , et al. Computer-enhanced “robotic” cardiac surgery: experience in 148 patients. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2001; 121 (5) 842-853
- 11 Onnasch JF, Schneider F, Falk V, Walther T, Gummert J, Mohr FW. Minimally invasive approach for redo mitral valve surgery: a true benefit for the patient. J Card Surg 2002; 17 (1) 14-19
- 12 Seeburger J, Borger MA, Falk V , et al. Minimally invasive mitral valve surgery after previous sternotomy: experience in 181 patients. Ann Thorac Surg 2009; 87 (3) 709-714
- 13 Gummert JF, Rahmel A, Bucerius J , et al. Mitral valve repair in patients with end stage cardiomyopathy: who benefits?. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2003; 23 (6) 1017-1022 , discussion 1022
- 14 Pfannmueller B, Verevkin A, Borger MA , et al. Role of tricuspid valve repair for moderate tricuspid regurgitation during minimally invasive mitral valve surgery. Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2013; 61 (5) 386-391
- 15 Seeburger J, Borger MA, Falk V , et al. Minimal invasive mitral valve repair for mitral regurgitation: results of 1339 consecutive patients. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2008; 34 (4) 760-765
- 16 Seeburger J, Borger MA, Doll N , et al. Comparison of outcomes of minimally invasive mitral valve surgery for posterior, anterior and bileaflet prolapse. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2009; 36 (3) 532-538
- 17 Pfannmüller B, Seeburger J, Misfeld M, Borger MA, Garbade J, Mohr FW. Minimally invasive mitral valve repair for anterior leaflet prolapse. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2013; 146 (1) 109-113
- 18 Borger MA, Kaeding AF, Seeburger J , et al. Minimally invasive mitral valve repair in Barlow's disease: early and long-term results. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2014; 148 (4) 1379-1385
- 19 Vollroth M, Seeburger J, Garbade J , et al. Minimally invasive mitral valve surgery is a very safe procedure with very low rates of conversion to full sternotomy. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2012; 42 (1) e13-e15 , e16
- 20 Ender J, Selbach M, Borger MA , et al. Echocardiographic identification of iatrogenic injury of the circumflex artery during minimally invasive mitral valve repair. Ann Thorac Surg 2010; 89 (6) 1866-1872
- 21 Holzhey DM, Seeburger J, Misfeld M, Borger MA, Mohr FW. Learning minimally invasive mitral valve surgery: a cumulative sum sequential probability analysis of 3895 operations from a single high-volume center. Circulation 2013; 128 (5) 483-491
- 22 Maisano F, Cioni M, Seeburger J , et al. Beating-heart implantation of adjustable length mitral valve chordae: acute and chronic experience in an animal model. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2011; 40 (4) 840-847
- 23 Langer F, Borger MA, Czesla M , et al. Dynamic annuloplasty for mitral regurgitation. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2013; 145 (2) 425-429
- 24 Maisano F, Falk V, Borger MA , et al. Improving mitral valve coaptation with adjustable rings: outcomes from a European multicentre feasibility study with a new-generation adjustable annuloplasty ring system. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2013; 44 (5) 913-918
- 25 Fabricius AM, Walther T, Falk V, Mohr FW. Three-dimensional echocardiography for planning of mitral valve surgery: current applicability?. Ann Thorac Surg 2004; 78 (2) 575-578
- 26 Ender J, Koncar-Zeh J, Mukherjee C , et al. Value of augmented reality-enhanced transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) for determining optimal annuloplasty ring size during mitral valve repair. Ann Thorac Surg 2008; 86 (5) 1473-1478
- 27 Ender J, Eibel S, Mukherjee C , et al. Prediction of the annuloplasty ring size in patients undergoing mitral valve repair using real-time three-dimensional transoesophageal echocardiography. Eur J Echocardiogr 2011; 12 (6) 445-453
- 28 Walther T, Falk V, Dewey T , et al. Valve-in-a-valve concept for transcatheter minimally invasive repeat xenograft implantation. J Am Coll Cardiol 2007; 50 (1) 56-60
- 29 Kempfert J, Blumenstein JM, Borger MA , et al. Minimally invasive off-pump valve-in-a-valve implantation: the atrial transcatheter approach for re-operative mitral valve replacement. Eur Heart J 2008; 29 (19) 2382-2387
- 30 Kempfert J, Blumenstein J, Chu MW , et al. Minimally invasive off-pump valve-in-a-ring implantation: the atrial transcatheter approach for re-operative mitral valve replacement after failed repair. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2009; 35 (6) 965-969 , discussion 969
- 31 Seeburger J, Leontjev S, Neumuth M , et al. Trans-apical beating-heart implantation of neo-chordae to mitral valve leaflets: results of an acute animal study. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg 2012; 41 (1) 173-176 , discussion 176
- 32 Seeburger J, Rinaldi M, Nielsen SL , et al. Off-pump transapical implantation of artificial neo-chordae to correct mitral regurgitation: the TACT Trial (Transapical Artificial Chordae Tendinae) proof of concept. J Am Coll Cardiol 2014; 63 (9) 914-919
- 33 Merk DR, Emrich FC, Mohr FW, Seeburger J. Transcatheter mitral valve repair: where are we?. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther 2014; 12 (12) 1379-1381