Cardiology has been a main medical specialty throughout the history of modern science. Cardiologists treat diseases and irregularities of the heart. A general cardiologist does not perform surgery. Physicians in the cardiology field who do perform surgeries include cardiac pulmonologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, and cardiovascular surgeons.
Modern cardiology has a deeply rooted history with theories still in use dating back to 1628. In that time, it was believed that blood came from the liver (probably from the observation of war wounds from the abdomen bleed profusely) and was absorbed by tissues directly. William Harvey published an essay in that year paving the way for the study of what we now know as the circulatory system; whose primary engine is the heart.
The first cardiac surgery in 1801 was performed in Spain by Francisco Romero, but was met with great disapproval by the medical community. His pioneering efforts were halted for quite some time. The year 1896 introduced a German surgeon who successfully operated directly on a soldier’s heart, the first surgery of its kind with no complications. Just three years later, in Switzerland, the study of electric defibrillation, electric shock used to restore heartbeat, came to fruition and was proven successful.
1910 gave us the father of open-heart and organ transplantation surgery, and for such studies, Alexis Carrel received a Nobel Prize in 1912. In 1929, the first intravenous catheter was used by and on its inventor. The pro’s: the ability to safely administer medicine to internal organs and tissues, such as the heart. Cons: Because of his unprecedented actions, Werner Forssman, a doctor in a surgery residency, was removed from the program and discredited for his findings. We still use intravenous catheters today.
In 1950, Charles Hufnagel was the first surgeon to be implementing the first artificial valves for the heart. It was called a caged-ball valve. At that time, the procedure scored an unprecedented 60% survival rate, far more successful than expected.
In 1953 was a very successful year for cardiological advances. Both local anesthesia and the first heart-lung machine were introduced. The heart-lung machine takes the place of the heart, allowing doctors to operate more intensively and for a longer period of time. The very next year, the first cordless and battery powered pacemaker debuted. This led the way to, in 1958, the first implanted pacemaker. It failed in less than 4 hours. When the procedure was repeated, it did not fail until two days later. Pacemakers now can last for years.
In 1967 it was made known to be another promising and noteworthy year. The first heart bypass using the patient’s very own leg veins occurred, and also the first human-to-human heart transplantation. The transplant surgery went according to plan, however due to anti-rejection drugs of the time the patient’s immune system was too weak.
In 1974 brought about the earlier peripheral human balloon angioplasty, replacing the conventional and much more invasive procedure. Six years later, another device surfaced. Dr. Michel Mirowski, a native of Poland, was credited with manufacturing a device that would be further known as an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators).
In 1982 and 1986 gave us the first artificial heart and the first coronary stent, respectively.
The FDA approved the first angioplasty balloon in 1994 and in 2001, robotics came into play. Robotics now allows for minimally invasive surgeries, and the surgeon can even operate remotely.
2007: Human embryonic stem cells were first used to successfully repair and, in a way, regrow human heart tissues in a lab.
Conclusion, from the early days until the present and even today, cardiology is constantly changing. If you asked a cardiologist in 1950 what he thought about robotic surgeries, he would have had you committed! If you had asked a cardiothoracic surgeon in 2000 about stem cell tissue regrowth, his response would have been “Well, that’s a nice idea.” It is for sure however: We can’t wait to see what’s next.Science is changing – Science is Improving.