Getting to the Heart of Valentine's Day

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


February 11, 2019

The Birth of Heart Surgery

Daniel Hale Williams, MD. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Up until nearly the end of the 19th century, surgeons feared to operate on the beating heart. Theodor Billroth, a highly respected professor of surgery in Vienna, cautioned that "the surgeon who would attempt to suture a wound of the heart should lose the respect of his colleagues."[8] Despite this warning, prominent African American surgeon Daniel Hale Williams successfully repaired a pericardial tear in 1893, thus performing one of the first cardiac surgical procedures in the United States.[9]. Just a few years later, German surgeon Ludwig Rehn successfully sutured a stab wound of the heart.[10] Cardiac surgery, now commonly performed throughout the world, is overwhelmingly highly successful.


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