Most heart attacks occur when the tube that provides blood and oxygen to the heart muscle (the coronary artery) becomes blocked, often by clumps of fat. This condition, known as coronary heart disease, is the leading cause of death worldwide. Michael DeBakey, pictured, was a revolutionary cardiac surgeon. He invented numerous surgical instruments and techniques that are still used to save thousands of lives every year. In 1966, he performed the first coronary artery bypass, using a leg vein to divert the blood flow around a blockage. There are now an average of 55 of these operations performed every day in England alone. DeBakey also played an important role in developing methods to repair blood vessels and in producing the first artificial heart, which he can be seen holding here. During his career, DeBakey performed over 60,000 operations some of which were on royalty and heads of state.
Written by Charlotte Rose Davison
- Image from the University of Houston Digital Library via Wikimedia Commons
- Image in the public domain, courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
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