The cardiac section will deal with the heart defects that are most commonly seen in children with the VATER Association These will include:
  1. transposition of the arteries.
  2. hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
  3. dextrocardia.
  4. pacemaker.
  5. valve replacements.
  6. atrioventricular canal.
The history of congenital heart defects seen in babies born with CARROTS and the surgical intervention by doctors to try and correct them is a history of many trials and errors. Most if not all of the surgical intervention began in the laboratory of up and coming surgeons, their assistants and surgical laboratory technicians who did much of the research. Research began in the late 1800’s in different parts of the world as well as the United States and the laboratories were using rabbits, cats, dogs, monkeys, guinea pigs and other animals to try and reproduce birth defects seen in babies and then trying to correct these birth defects that were reproduced in the animals. The word used to describe this work on animals is called vivisection or animal experimentation. The 1900’s brought the most succesful time for correction of heart defects because a select few were willing to invade the heart that was thought by the majority in the medical community and society for centuries to be where the spirit lies and was untouchable by man. The few who tried and had success were scolded by their peers and shunned by the medical community.

Most of the heart research was mainly being done in Europe. The grail of heart surgery was brought to the forefront in the United States in the 20 th century by many doctors who were leading the way to do things that no one thought possible or dared to do.

When we speak of who was the first doctor to operate on a specific birth defect whether it is of the heart or another part of the anatomy of the body being the first did not necessarily mean the patient survived.

The operation may have been a success but more often than not the patient died from either complications from the operation on the operating room table or after wards from problems such as infection and or pneumonia. A complication can be any thing from too much bleeding, shock, lack of oxygen and many other unexpected and unknown problems at the time.

A patient may survive a few minutes to days, weeks or months. Success of an operation ultimately should mean survival, but for how long I don’t have an answer but I believe most would think a normal life span of at least 70 years. Other factors for survival come into play and we need to remember that this is the beginning of a new era in medicine and not many were willing to surgically intervene on these patients.

The early history of heart surgery could mean sewing up the outside of the heart because of a knife wound or something penetrating the chest and piercng the heart. There are a number of reported cases of this with survivors.

The heart defects that we will talk about and the first survivors and those surgeons who attempted to correct these birth defects may be confusing but you need to keep in mind that their were many firsts on the same heart defect but how it was done was different. and the equipment or technique was different.

An example of this would be in 1938 Dr. Robert Edward Gross from Childrens Hospital in Boston operated on a 7 year old girl who had a heart defect called patent ductus arteriosis. This is when the aorta and the pulmonary artery which are joined together in utero and when a baby is born the aorta and pulmonary artery divide. If both arteries don’t divide on their own breathing problems or possibly heart failure may occur. Dr. Gross’s patient survived. A few days before Dr. Gross another surgeon tried closing a patent ductus arteriosis operation but the patient did not survive.

We will discuss many firsts with the same birth defect but a different approach was taken. The approach of each operation to slow the flow of blood either to the heart or in the heart is really fascinating. We will share with you how a parent was hooked up to his child for cross blood transfusion with beer tubing, lowering the temperature of a babies body temperature to slow the flow of blood called hypothermai by placing the baby in a horse trough filled with ice, and the beginning of the use of the heart lung machine.

All three operations done on the same heart defect but each was approached differently and all made medical history. The names of doctors who took the chance to open the field of heart surgery begins with Gross who did the first Patent ductus arteriosis, coarctation of the aorta along with Crafoord, the first atrial septal defect with his own invention of a well, Gibbon, Lewis, Varco, Lillehie, Kirklin, Bailey, Blalock, Taussig, Gott, Taufic and many others.

The history of heart surgery is exciting, riveting, breathtaking and painful and yet has given life to tens of thousands of people from all over the world who would have had a shortlife expectancy with little hope for a future to a healthy life with unlimited possibilities.