A history of heart surgery

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*130-200 AD

Galen, the private physician to Emperor Marcus Aurelius, makes important discoveries including identifying valves and ventricles and the differences between veins and arteries.



*1628

William Harvey describes the idea of circulation and how blood is pumped through the body by the heart, revolutionising the way we think about the human body.



*1810-1820

The first heart operations are carried out by doctors including Dominique Jean Larrey, Napoleon's surgeon, and Francisco Romero, though most patients die.



*1890s

Stab wounds to the heart are successfully operated on for the first time, although there is still a 90 per cent mortality rate during the course of the surgery.



*1938

The first major operation on the heart vessels to repair a pulmonary artery defect is successful, signalling the beginning of modern cardiac surgery.



*1950s

After various wartime breakthroughs, surgeons experiment with lowering a patient's body temperature, which allows for the first successful open heart surgery in 1952. The heart-lung machine is then developed, which takes over the functions of the body's vital organs, giving the surgeon more time to operate. Cardiac surgeons such as Denton Cooley become celebrities in their field.



*1967

South African Christian Barnard performs the first ever heart transplant. The procedure becomes so successful and widespread during the 1970s that there is a shortage of donor hearts.



*1990s

Surgeons had been experimenting with artificial heart transplants since the 1950s, but it is not until the end of the 20th century that battery-powered heart transplants prove successful. The artificial hearts give the patient time to recover or wait for a donor heart to be found, though it is hoped they may soon be long-term solutions to heart defects.

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