From performing the first stopped open-heart operation to broadcasting the first minimally invasive heart surgery, the Cleveland Clinic’s impact on cardiovascular health can’t be overstated.
Dr. Lars G. Svensson, chairman of the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, walks us through their accomplishments in the field of heart health and science.
1956: The Cleveland Clinic performs the first stopped-heart operation.
While stopped-heart surgery is common today (there are nearly a half million each year), the first one was done at the Cleveland Clinic. Led by doctors Donald Effler and Lawrence Groves, a team of 15 clinicians stopped patient Kevin Beason’s heart for 17 minutes to fix a hole in it. As a part of the surgery, the team used a heart-lung machine developed by fellow Cleveland Clinic doctor Willem Kolff. “It was a very radical operation for the time,” Svensson says. “At that time, it was quite a brave thing to do.”
1958: Dr. F. Mason Sones discovers moving cine-coronary angiography.
One of the Cleveland Clinic’s greatest contributions to cardiac health happened by accident. While observing a patient, Sones accidently injected dye into the patient’s right coronary artery, a procedure that was off-limits due to the belief that it would trigger cardiac arrest. Instead of the patient going into cardiac arrest, Sones was able to see the anatomy of their arteries. This procedure, now called cardiac catheterization, is used today before nearly every cardiac operation. “It’s unsafe to not do a cardiac catheterization,” Svensson says. “If we don’t do it, we won’t be able to see any blockages beforehand.”
1968: Dr. Rene Favaloro pioneers the world’s first coronary artery bypass surgery.
Favaloro and Dr. Mason Sones pioneered one of the first modern coronary bypass surgeries in 1967 before publishing the results in 1968. Their procedure uses the great saphenous vein to circumvent coronary blockages. “It’s a vital operation,” Svensson says. “Luckily, we’re trending in the right direction. The number of people at risk of death from heart disease has been reduced thanks to medications, interventions and heart surgery.”
1978: King Khalid of Saudi Arabia comes to Cleveland for coronary artery bypass surgery.
King Khalid Ibn Abdul Aziz’s surgery was as important to the Cleveland Clinic as it was to him. The king’s 30-day stay, which included a successful double bypass heart operation, helped put the Clinic on the international map as a leader in cardiac health. The late king also made philanthropic contributions to the hospital as a show of gratitude.“It was actually a very complicated operation,” says Svensson.
1986: Dr. Floyd “Fred” Loop publishes his study on artery bypass grafting.
In 1971, Loop, the same doctor who operated on King Khalid, identified the internal thoracic artery as the preferred artery to be used during coronary artery bypass grafting because of its higher rate of long-term survival compared to surgeries using leg veins. “That paper came out when I was a trainee at the Cleveland Clinic,” Svensson says. “It was a major thing that was realized.”
1998: The Cleveland Clinic broadcasts minimally invasive heart surgery across the world.
A pioneer of the minimally invasive heart surgery, Dr. Delos M. “Toby” Cosgrove helped show clinicians around the world this skill when the Cleveland Clinic hosted a live satellite broadcast of the “keyhole” surgery to an audience of 4,000 surgeons in 40 cities across the United States. “He really put an impetus on all over to work on less invasive operations,” Svensson says. “With that surgery, there’s less blood loss and respiratory complications after surgery.”