A Short History Of Heart Surgery


In 1968 the first coronary bypass graft was done, and since that time heart surgeons have never looked back. Last December surgeons at the University of Utah implanted the first total, plastic artificial heart in Barney Clark, a sixty-one-year-old retired dentist from Seattle. This heart was planned as a permanent replacement; that is, it was not intended to be replaced by a donor heart. It was powered by an outside source, about the size of a vacuum cleaner, and Clark’s mobility was severely limited. This plastic heart beat in Barney Clark’s body for 112 days; he died on March 23, brought down at last by “circulatory collapse and secondary multiorgan system failure,” as the hospital report put it. The 112 days of life that were given to Clark by the procedure make it almost inevitable that within the next few years an artificial heart, probably run by an implantable power source, will become a realistic option for those afflicted with otherwise terminal heart disease. Once that is accomplished, I can’t foresee any other new worlds for cardiac surgeons to conquer. They will finally have done it all.