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William Paton Cleland

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 19 May 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1212

A pioneer of open heart surgery

Bill Cleland was one of the surgeons who developed open heart surgery in London in the late 1950s. He was at Hammersmith Hospital in 1952-3 when Professor Dennis Melrose developed the first heart-lung machine. Melrose and Cleland conducted extensive animal tests before trying the machine in 1953 on patients whose prognosis was poor. In the early days there were postoperative deaths, which taught them the importance of meticulous postoperative care, and the clinical programme was restarted successfully in 1957.

Cleland was one of the machine's earliest users, and it enabled him to perform a wide range of new operations, specialising in mitral valvotomy, the surgical treatment of ventricular septal defect, and aortic valve replacement. He was the first to operate on the newly identified condition of obstructive cardiomyopathy—known in the United States as hypertrophic subaortic stenosis—by excising muscle from the interventricular septum via the aortic valve.

Russian surgeons were impressed by Melrose's heart-lung machine, and Professor Aleksandr Bakulev from the then Soviet Union …

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