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Revista médica de Chile

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ZALAQUETT S, Ricardo. Fifty years of the heart-lung machine. Rev. méd. Chile [online]. 2003, vol.131, n.11, pp.1337-1344. ISSN 0034-9887.

In 1953 DNA was discovered and the Everest was conquered but also a great invention was developed: the heart-lung machine, which allowed the treatment, and in many cases, the cure of most cardiovascular illnesses. In fact, on May 6, 1953 John Gibbon crowned with success the work of his entire life closing for the first time an atrial septal defect in a young woman using a heart-lung machine of his own invention. Before that, surgeons had explored other roads like hypothermia, cooling the patient in a cold water tub and then rapidly performing the surgical correction of a heart malformation. After his first success, the following 4 patients of Gibbon died, which led him to abandon heart surgery and produced a generalized pessimism about extracorporeal circulation. However, a year later Walton Lillehei reverted this situation with the introduction of controlled cross-circulation in which a patient, usually a child, was connected to a "donor", usually his father or mother, whose heart and lung served as a pump and oxigenator, allowing the performance of open heart surgery. Finally, it was Lillehei again who a year later introduced the bubble oxigenator, simple and inexpensive, opening the doors of open heart surgery to all surgeons around the world. For this, and many other reasons, Walton Lillehei is considered by most surgeons as the "Father of Open Heart Surgery". Lillehei visited Chile in 1963 and operated on a patient in the surgical theaters of the Hospital Clínico de la Universidad Católica and was named an Honorary Member of the School of Medicine of this University. Before that, in 1957 Helmut Jaeger at the Hospital Luis Calvo Mackenna performed the first successful surgical closure of an atrial septal defect with extracorporeal circulation in Chile using a De Wall-Lillehei bubble oxigenator (Rev Méd Chile 2003; 131: 1337-44)

Keywords : Heart defects; congenital; Heart-lung machine; History of Medicine; Surgical procedures; operative.

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