Helping Hearts

By the 1960s surgeons could replace parts of the human heart with artificial devices. The heart-lung machine developed in the 1940s and 1950s, new biocompatible materials, and new surgical techniques made mechanical implantation possible.   

Physicians and scientists experimented with artificial veins and arteries, pacemakers, artificial heart valves, and heart bypass assist devices. Complications could include blood clotting and damage to the blood when it came into contact with foreign bodies.

Heart Bypass Assist Device, 1963
This pneumatic-powered pump allowed blood flow from the left atrium to the aorta, providing circulatory assistance. (Collected 1964, Gift of School of Medicine, Baylor University)

Experimental Pacemaker, about 1963
The batteries that powered this implantable pacemaker had to be replaced after about eighteen months. (Collected 1970, Gift of Adrian Kantrowitz, M.D.)

McGovern-Cromie Artificial Heart Valve, about 1965
This is one of many heart valves developed in the early 1960s. Small hooks around the rim, instead of sutures, held it in place. This shortened the time required for surgery. (Collected 1981, Gift of Patrick K.C. Chun, M.D.)