Honoring 50 Years of Clinical Heart Transplantation in Circulation: In-Depth State-of-the-Art Review

Josef Stehlik, MD, MPH; Jon Kobashigawa, MD; Sharon A. Hunt, MD; Hermann Reichenspurner, MD, PhD; James K. Kirklin, MD


Circulation. 2018;137(1):71-87. 

In This Article


Society and the medical community recognize that heart transplantation restores longevity and favorable quality of life in appropriately selected patients with advanced heart failure. Although accurate, this conclusory comment fails to depict the real fabric of this amazing adventure. After more than half a century of concatenations of novel and sometimes heretical experimentation, there followed a nexus of pioneering spirit, opportunity, and an attitude of carpe diem that propelled the protagonists toward that prize of the first human heart transplantation. After the initial epoch of darkness during the 1970s, the subsequent conflation of concepts, discipline, intellectual peptides, and disruptive innovations drove a prodigious multidisciplinary effort that revolutionized the medical options for advanced heart failure. However, many challenges and opportunities remain for the prepared minds embracing this field. The many innovations on the clinical horizon indicate that the next 50 years promise to be no less captivating.