Over a third of infant deaths and half of cerebral palsy diagnoses in the United States are attributed to premature birth. Despite advances in neonatal intensive care that have increased the limits of viability, survivors of premature birth before 28 weeks often deal with chronic lung disease and other complications from immature organs.
Over 100 years ago, two surgeries performed in Norway and Germany, respectively, marked the beginning of cardiac surgery. Until that time, the heart was considered sacrosanct and was not to be violated by surgeons’ hands.
When a major blood vessel is severed, death will occur if the bleeding isn't stopped and circulation restored. This was the case in 1894, when the fifth president of the Third Republic of France, Sadi Carnot, was attacked with a knife in the abdomen that left his portal vein severed. The surgeons who treated the president felt that the vein was too large to be successfully reconnected. Consequently, the vein bled out and the president died as a result of his wounds. This left a deep impression on a young French medical student at the University of Lyon, Alexis Carrel (1873-1944).
Topics: Clinical Trends
Charles Lindberg's place in the annals of aviation history was solidified when he completed the first non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic from New York to Paris in 1927. Instantly, he became an American hero, and the object of incessant media attention. The press dubbed him "Lucky Lindy" or the "Lone Eagle." Although the main focus of his life continued to be dedicated to aeronautics, including the mapping of major air routes around the world, few know that Lindberg was also a biomedical innovator.
Topics: CABG Case Reports
Dr. René Gerónimo Favaloro was an Argentine cardiac surgeon who pioneered coronary artery bypass surgery while at the Cleveland Clinic. He was born and raised in La Plata, capital of the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina to carpenter Juan B. Favaloro and Ida Y. Raffaelli, a dressmaker, both immigrants from Sicily, Italy.
Soon after completing his undergraduate degree in 1941, Favaloro was inducted into the Argentine army where he served for five years. In 1946, he left the service and continued his medical studies at La Universidad Nacional de La Plata, graduating in 1949. He would spend the next 12 years in a small farming community, La Pampa, as a rural physician. There, he educated patients about preventive medicine, established the first “mobile” blood bank in this area, and built his own operating room, where he trained general and surgical nurses. He later wrote about this period of his life in his book Memoirs of a Country Doctor.
On Dec. 3, 1967, a medical milestone was made in Cape Town, South Africa. A 54-year-old grocer, Louis Washkansky, received a heart transplanted from a young woman who died in a fatal accident while crossing the street. A medical team of 30 under the direction of Dr. Christiaan Barnard, assisted by his right-hand man and brother Marius, performed the nine-hour operation. Washkansky survived the operation and lived for 18 days before succumbing to pneumonia.
Norman Edward Shumway M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University Frances and Charles Field Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery, Emeritus, was born February 9, 1923, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His father ran a creamery. Shumway was quiet, witty, irreverent and intuitive about people and about what would and would not work. Despite his fame as the father of heart transplantation, he shunned publicity.
"What he did, more than anyone else, was make heart surgery safe." —O.H. Frazier, M.D. (Denton Cooley protégé)
Denton Cooley, one of the greatest heart surgeons of the 20th century, was a third-generation Houstonian. He was born in 1920 in comfortable economic circumstances. His father was a successful dentist; his maternal grandfather, a physician. As a young scholar and athlete, Cooley showed great promise. As a youth, he was inspired by his parents and a family friend who also was his mother’s obstetrician, Dr. E.W. Bertner, who later founded the Texas Medical Center.
When professor Stephen Westaby, a heart surgeon at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, England, decided to go to the United States to refine his surgical skills, he was advised, “Go to Kirklin. There you will learn discipline.”
In the second half of the 20th century, a group of surgeons advanced the work of early pioneers in cardiothoracic surgery who had first introduced surgical procedures to relieve heart disease. Two of these men were from institutions in America’s heartland: Dr. John Kirklin worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, while at nearby University of Minnesota in Minneapolis; and Dr. Clarence Walton “Walt” Lillehei pioneered open heart surgery.