More than 80 patients along the West Coast who required open heart or lung surgery have benefited from keyhole procedures using three-dimensional (3D) imaging technology, following the introduction of this advanced surgical technique at Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital in 2017.


Dr Van der Merwe and his team specialise in keyhole heart and lung surgery, with special interest in all aspects of heart valve diseases.

In February 2017, Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital became one of only a few hospitals in South Africa where open heart and lung operations using a keyhole incision and state of the art 3D camera technology can be performed. The procedure has revolutionised heart and lung surgery elsewhere in the world and eliminates the need for large incisions or cutting through the breastbone, thereby offering a wide range of potential benefits to patients.

Dr Johan Van der Merwe, a minimally invasive cardiothoracic surgeon practicing at Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital, explains that patients with heart or lung diseases who require surgery are referred either directly from their local general practitioner, cardiologist or other specialist physicians. “Because, heart and lung surgery performed with traditional techniques involves rather large chest wall incisions, this requires a lengthy recovery period. With keyhole surgery in 3D, we perform the same operation but through small incisions with perfect visualisation of what we are doing. Recovery is quick and the vast majority of patients can resume their normal activities relatively soon after an intervention.”

Dr Van der Merwe and his team specialise in keyhole heart and lung surgery, with special interest in all aspects of heart valve diseases. He trained for six years under world-renowned pioneers of keyhole and robotic-assisted heart and lung surgery in Europe and the United Kingdom, and now heads the Keyhole Heart Centre and Atlantic Cardiovascular and Thoracic Institute based at Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital.

Dr Van der Merwe attributes the success of these particular procedures to a team approach centred around meeting the needs of each individual patient and the delivery of world-class service. “It is a privilege for all of us involved to provide state-of-the-art techniques and technology to patients with heart and lung disease. It is our vision as a team to provide a comprehensive service, where our patients always come first. We are very excited and motivated to do what we are trained to do,” he added.

“It is our goal as a team to offer our patients the benefits of minimally invasive and catheter based interventions, which provide the advantages of significantly less surgical trauma, fewer reported complications, shorter recovery times and, on the whole, greater patient satisfaction,” Dr Van der Merwe explains.