The First U.S. Human Heart Transplant
Norman E. Shumway performed the world’s third human heart transplant, and the first on U.S. soil, on this date in 1968. Shumway worked for several years, refining the technique of transplanting the heart of one dog into another, before he attempted to transplant the heart of one person into the body of another. He worked on a technique called “topical hypothermia,” where the experimental animal’s temperature was lowered to about 32 degrees Centigrade and the operation performed while cold saline solution flowed into the heart and then was sucked out. This limited cooling only to the heart, while he clamped the aorta so that no blood flowed into the coronary arteries. Later in the procedure, the aorta was unclamped, blood flow resumed, and the heart begun again with an electrical shock. Shumway will be remembered for how he and his team of physicians streamlined the human heart transplant procedure and worked to make it commonplace. Their refinements included new ways to keep a donated heart fresh and techniques to keep the human body from rejecting a transplanted heart.
Copyright Aetna InteliHealth, Inc., 2012. All rights reserved.