Actor Heinz Hoenig (72) has been in a Berlin clinic for two weeks now. A bacterial infection is said to have caused serious damage to his body. He has already had two procedures, but an operation on the aorta is still pending.

On April 30th, a rescue helicopter brings Heinz Hoenig to a clinic in Berlin. According to his management, the reason was an acute heart problem. Management called Siegelring is not providing any further information about his health at this time. It later became known: A bacterial infection damaged a stent that was inserted by Hoenig in 2012. He also has a hole in his esophagus.

Stents are standard treatment for narrowed arteries. The small stainless steel tubes are intended to keep the delicate vessel walls upright after doctors have dilated them with a balloon catheter. Classic stents remain permanently in the vessel and gradually grow into the vessel wall.

Hoenig’s stent is temporarily replaced as part of an emergency operation. The problem: That doesn’t last long, his entire aorta has to be replaced, reports wife Annika Kärsten-Hoenig.

Heinz Hoenig is in an artificial coma in the intensive care unit and fighting for survival. “Literally. I know that my Heinzi is incredibly strong. But now he is fighting the fight of his life,” says Annika Kärsten-Hoenig to “Bild am Sonntag”.

Hoenig’s management says things are “very critical” about the actor, “as he is in the intensive care unit with an acute heart problem.”

“Heinz is about to wake up,” reports his wife Annika Kärsten-Hoenig to “”. Hoenig is said to have reacted to her and spoken her first words while awakening from the artificial coma. “I stood at his bedside this morning and talked to him,” says Kärsten-Hoenig. “He nods and has his eyes open. I said to him: ‘I’m sorry, Heinz, that I look so terrible.’ Then he laughed and beamed at me and slowly said: ‘For me, you are the most beautiful woman in the whole world.'”

An operation lasting several hours was successful, as his management announced on the same day. The bacterial inflammation on the stent also caused a hole in the esophagus. Doctors are now said to have removed the organ.

Without an esophagus, Hoenig must first be fed through a tube – for at least nine months, as his wife Annika reported to RTL. In a further operation, the missing esophagus could then be recreated from parts of the stomach or large intestine.

“His entire aorta needs to be replaced,” Hoenig’s wife explained to “Bild am Sonntag” on May 5th. The aorta, also called the main artery, is the largest artery. It transports oxygen-rich blood from the heart throughout the body. In Hoenig’s case it was inflamed.

According to the German Heart Center at the Charité (DHZC), the blood flow must be redirected during an operation on the aorta. This requires a heart-lung machine that takes over the pumping function of the heart and ensures that vital organs continue to be supplied with oxygen-rich blood.

What exactly is done during the operation depends on which segments of the main artery are affected. This is currently not known in Hoenig’s case. According to his wife, the procedure lasts between eight and ten hours and is life-threatening.

It is also not yet known when Hoenig will have surgery. That depends on his physical condition. His management writes that the medical team is still discussing how the actor can be treated in the best possible way.

As his wife Annika reports, her husband will initially be fed artificially for nine months after his esophagus is removed. Another major operation could then follow: Doctors can recreate the missing esophagus from other parts of the body.

On the one hand, the stomach can be pulled up so far that a new esophagus is formed from the upper section. However, this only works if the stomach is big enough. If patients are initially fed from a tube for several months, it can subsequently shrink. It may then no longer be large enough to form part of it into an esophagus.

It is then possible to recreate the esophagus from a piece of colon. In an adult, the large intestine measures between one and 1.5 meters. In order to form an esophagus, about 30 centimeters would have to be removed. However, even with such a repaired esophagus, patients remain impaired. Read more here.

What happens next for the actor and what his recovery process looks like after the operations could also depend on the 72-year-old’s financial situation. Most recently it became known that Hoenig does not have health insurance. His management reported: “Due to a lack of orders, Mr. Hoenig was ultimately no longer able to pay the health insurance contributions. Since he was insured differently through different orders, it first had to be determined which health insurance company he was last insured with. Since Mr. Hoenig is over 55 years old, this also made the process of being reinstated to health insurance more difficult.”

Hoenig’s family therefore launched an appeal for donations to cover the costs of the operation. Around 160,000 euros have currently been raised (as of May 16, 2024). An operation on the aorta could cost up to 100,000 euros.