Liotta-Cooley Artificial Heart

Liotta-Cooley Artificial Heart

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This is the first total artificial heart implanted in a human body. It was developed by Domingo Liotta and implanted by surgeon Denton Cooley (1920-2016) on April 4, 1969, at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston. The recipient, Haskell Karp, lived for sixty-four hours with the artificial heart pumping oxygenated blood through his body until a human heart was available for transplant.
Although Karp died soon after receiving a real heart, and some criticized the surgery as unethical because it was without formal review by the medical community, the procedure demonstrated the viability of artificial hearts as a bridge to transplant in cardiac patients.
Currently not on view
Object Name
artificial heart
heart, artificial
date made
Liotta, Domingo
place made
United States: Texas, Houston
Physical Description
dacron (overall material)
polyurethane (overall material)
silastic (overall material)
overall, as stored: 7 1/2 in x 9 in x 6 1/2 in; 19.05 cm x 22.86 cm x 16.51 cm
overall: 18.7 cm x 22.8 cm x 16.4 cm; 7 3/8 in x 8 31/32 in x 6 15/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Denton Cooley, M.D.
Health Care
Artificial Organs
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
National Treasures exhibit
Health & Medicine
Government, Politics, and Reform
Artificial Hearts
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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It has been more than half a century since Dr. Cooley successfully implanted the artificial heart into a human patient. At Brooklyn Tech, Steven Wu, a Weston Research Scholar under my supervision has been developing an artificial fish heart patterned after the Cooley-DeBakey-Liotta artificial heart. Our piscine heart, though it will not be implanted into the body of humans nor animals will be used to decipher the cardiovascular mechanisms of flotation restrictive environmental technique or FL-REST. The piscine heart has pneumatically actuated muscles. For me, it has been an intriguing journey in biomedical research, since my visiting studentship at the Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco ,in 1980, under the mentoring of Professor Dr. Abraham Rudolph and sponsorship of Dr. Joseph Spinelli. My training in zoological medicine, biomechanics, and psychophysiology has enabled my Tech research team to apply the Cooley-DeBakey-Liotta artificial heart in FL-REST investigations.
Dear Sir, I was fortunate enough to having been personally involved in the implantation of this device by Dr. Denton Cooley on 4th April 1969. This dramatic event has been the highlight of my career spanning over 50 years as a heart surgeon. Best regards,
Thank you Sir. As a high school student I was inspired by the pioneering research of Drs. Cooley, DeBakey, Liotta, and medical scientists of your abilities. I was fortunate to work in the laboratories of Dr. Abraham Rudolph at UC San Francisco, Medical Center in the summer of 1980 as a visiting student. The visiting studentship inspired me to opt for a career in the cardiovascular sciences. However, my many years in zoological medicine and psychophysiology brought me back to the heart again. Chris Barnard has also been one of my role models. Thank you again.

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