The History of Cardiac Surgery

Nicholas T. Kouchoukos, MD, James R. Scharff, MD

I. Introduction

It is extremely difficult to document in a single chapter all of the important advances in the surgical treatment of heart and thoracic vascular disease that have elevated the practice of cardiothoracic surgery to its present level, and to acknowledge all of the surgeons and other individuals who have made significant contributions to the specialty. We have elected to begin this chapter with the first successful closure of a wound of the heart which occurred in 1896, and ushered in the modern age of heart surgery. Section II extends from 1896 to 1952, the pre-cardiopulmonary bypass era, and includes important early developments in the treatment of acquired and congenital heart disease, and of disorders involving the thoracic aorta before the advent of cardiopulmonary bypass. Section III documents the discoveries that were essential to the development of cardiopulmonary bypass and open heart surgery. Section IV describes the important contributions of a number of surgeons and their colleagues who devised and modified surgical procedures to treat a number of congenital and acquired diseases of the heart and the thoracic aorta. We owe an enormous debt to these pioneers whose ingenuity and courage established the foundation for all of the achievements in the surgical treatment of heart and vascular disease that have followed.

Much of the information in this chapter was obtained from several excellent texts on the history of cardiac surgery. The most important of these are “The Evolution of Cardiac Surgery” by Harris B. Shumacker Jr., “The History of Cardiac Surgery” by Stephen L. Johnson, “Caring for the Heart. Mayo Clinic and The Rise Of Specialization” by W. Bruce Fye, and “The History of Cardiac Surgery” by Raymond Hurt. The “Historical Notes” at the beginning of the chapters in the textbook “Cardiac Surgery” also provided important information. These and other sources of historical information are listed in the References at the end of the chapter.

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Last updated: March 27, 2023