Ben Milstein

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 13 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3862
  1. Anne Gulland, London
  1. annecgulland{at}

Cardiac surgeon who pioneered open heart techniques

Ben Milstein became a cardiac surgeon in the early days of the specialty, and he performed some of the very first open heart procedures in the United Kingdom. Before heart-lung machines became commonplace, the hypothermia technique was used: anaesthetised patients were plunged into a bath of ice to slow the heartbeat. Once the body temperature had reached 28oC the patient was taken out of the bath and surgeons had a 10 to 15 minute window in which to operate.

Milstein arrived at Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire in January 1958 and performed the first open heart surgery in this way to repair a large atrial septal defect on 28 year old Pamela Gooding. The operation was a success, and 40 years later Milstein and Gooding met up at a party to celebrate the hospital’s work.

Milstein told the BBC, “I remember this date because it was my birthday. In celebration of this, at the end of the operation, the whole team seized me and plunged me into the bath. They had recently emptied this …

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