How we got here: A brief history of cardiac surgery
Cardiac surgery is surgery performed on a person’s heart or blood vessels. The earliest forms of cardiac surgery began in the 19th century. In the beginning, the surgery took place on the sac that surrounds the heart (the pericardium). Later, the first surgery performed on the heart itself took place in 1895 in the city now known as Oslo in Norway. It was performed on a man who had been stabbed in the left axilla and was in deep shock. After the procedure, the man seemed fine for a day, but unfortunately became ill with a fever and died shortly after. It’s possible that unsterilized cardiac surgery instruments caused an infection which ultimately contributed to his death.
During the 20th century, cardiac surgery on the great vessels became more routine. Such procedures included aortic repair and closure of patent ductus arteriosus. However, until 1925 operations on heart valves did not take place. It was not until 1925 that Henry Sourttar successfully carried out cardiac surgery on a young woman with mitral valve stenosis. The operation was a success and the woman survived for several years after.
Throughout the century, developments in the field of cardiac surgery continued to grow. The very first pediatric cardiac operation took place at Johns Hopkins Hospital in November 1944 on a 1-year-old girl. This procedure was carried out by Alfred Blalock, Helen Taussig, and Vivien Thomas. After World War II, our understanding of cardiac surgery altered significantly. A patient with pulmonary stenosis was operated on and the stenosed pulmonary valve was successfully divided by Thomas Stellors of Middlesex Hospital in London in 1947. The following year, Russel Brock developed a specially designed dilator to treat three separate cases of pulmonary stenosis. In the same year, 1948, four different surgeons successfully carried out operations for mitral valve stenosis caused by rheumatic fever.
The first cardiac surgery performed under local anesthesia was in 1953 by Alexander Alexandrovich Vishnevsky. The very first open-heart surgery was performed by Dr. John Carter Callaghan in Canada.
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