Michael Ellis DeBakey

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 18 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a870
  1. Fred Charatan

    World famous pioneering cardiovascular surgeon and inventor

    Michael Ellis DeBakey was renowned throughout the world for his pioneering work in cardiovascular surgery. It began with his earliest invention, the roller pump as the central component of the heart-lung machine, while he was still a medical student in the 1930s. The heart-lung machine took over the functions of the heart and lungs during surgery by supplying oxygenated blood to the brain, helping to inaugurate the era of open heart surgery.

    In 1952 DeBakey successfully repaired an aortic aneurysm by replacing the damaged abdominal segment with a graft from a cadaver. He went on to discover, despite skeptics, that Dacron grafts were satisfactory substitutes for damaged (arteriosclerotic) parts of arteries. This finding allowed surgeons to repair previously inoperable aneurysms of the aorta. In 1953 he performed the first operation using a Dacron graft to replace part of an occluded artery. In 1963 he received the Lasker award for this discovery.

    During the second world war DeBakey helped update battlefield surgery by urging doctors to move to the front lines, where previously …

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