Health & Medical Cardiovascular Health

The History of Cardiac Surgery

    Early Attempts at Cardiac Surgery

    • Francisco Romero is credited with the first attempted cardiac surgery. Romero unsuccessfully attempted to perform an open pericardiostomy in 1801. He was the first doctor to cut into the pericardium, which is the lining of the heart.
      The German doctor Ludwig Wilhelm Carl Rehn (1849 to 1930) is credited with performing the first successful heart surgery that involved sutures. This surgery was performed on September 9, 1896.

    Drs. Harken and Bailey

    • Dr. Dwight Harken did pioneering work with animals that ultimately built a foundation for cardiac surgery in humans. Harken developed a technique that allowed him to operate on a beating heart to remove shrapnel. In 1948, Harken and another American doctor named Charles Bailey independently conducted surgeries to correct mitral stenosis within days of each other. The surgery corrected a malfunctioning heart valve, and each man used a technique that involved inserting a finger into the heart to expand the valve.

    Advances at the University of Minnesota

    • On September 2, 1952, two University of Minnesota surgeons attempted the first open heart surgery. Dr. Walton Lillehei and Dr. John Lewis operated on a 5-year-old girl with a congenital heart defect. The doctors cooled the girl's body temperature. Once the girl's body had reached a temperature of 81 degrees F, her heart was clamped and voided of blood, and the hole was sewn shut. The girl was slowly brought back up to a normal temperature, and she lived.

    First Heart Transplant

    • In December of 1967, Dr. Christiaan Barnard, a surgeon from South Africa, completed the first successful heart transplant. The patient lived for 18 days, but the drugs used to combat rejection of the transplanted organ ultimately contributed to his death. A handful of other minor successes in the field of heart transplants occurred, but heart transplants were still very dangerous. By 1971, 170 heart transplants had been conducted around the world. Of these, 146 patients died.

    Reduction Left Ventriculoplasty

    • Brazilian Doctor Randas Batista created a brand new surgical technique in 1994 that was used to treat heart failure in patients with enlarged hearts. Sewing up the left ventricle to reduce its size, allowed the heart to once again work effectively. So far, the results have been varied.

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