HT Image
HT Image

Famous cardiovascular surgeon dies at 99

Dr Michael DeBakey was a pioneer in the effort to develop artificial hearts and heart pumps to assist patients waiting for transplants, and helped create more than 70 surgical instruments. The surgical procedures that DeBakey developed once were the wonders of the medical world. Today, they are common procedures in most hospitals.
By HT Correspondent | AP, Houston
UPDATED ON JUL 12, 2008 04:42 PM IST

Dr Michael DeBakey, the world-famous cardiovascular surgeon who pioneered such now-common procedures as bypass surgery and invented a host of devices to help heart patients, died on Friday night at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, officials announced. He was 99.

DeBakey died from "natural causes," according to a written statement issued early Saturday by spokesmen for Baylor College of Medicine and The Methodist Hospital.

DeBakey underwent surgery in February 2006 for a damaged aorta - a procedure he had developed.

DeBakey counted world leaders among his patients and helped turn Baylor College of Medicine in Houston from a provincial school into one of the nation's great medical institutions.

"Dr. DeBakey's reputation brought many people into this institution, and he treated them all: heads of state, entertainers, businessmen and presidents, as well as people with no titles and no means," said Ron Girotto, president of The Methodist Hospital System.

Girotto said the surgeon "has improved the human condition and touched the lives of generations to come."

While still in medical school in 1932, he invented the roller pump, which became the major component of the heart-lung machine, beginning the era of open-heart surgery. The machine takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery.

It was only a start of a lifetime of innovation. The surgical procedures that DeBakey developed once were the wonders of the medical world. Today, they are commonplace procedures in most hospitals.

He also was a pioneer in the effort to develop artificial hearts and heart pumps to assist patients waiting for transplants, and helped create more than 70 surgical instruments.

In a rare interview published in December 2006, DeBakey gave The New York Times details of the operation on his damaged aorta earlier that year, when he was 97.

"It is a miracle," DeBakey said. "I really should not be here." He said he at first gambled that his aorta would heal on its own and refused to be admitted to a hospital, and was unresponsive and near death when his doctors and his wife decided to proceed, despite his age. He then spent several months in the hospital. As he recovered, DeBakey told his doctors he was glad they had operated, despite his earlier refusals.

"If they hadn't done it, I'd be dead," he said. Dr. William T. Butler, a colleague of DeBakey's at Baylor, said in March 2006 that DeBakey established himself with his surgical firsts as the "maestro of cardiovascular surgery." "Dr. DeBakey was never afraid to challenge the status quo, often going against the tide," Butler said. "Some times his colleagues did not really accept his visionary ideas, particularly as he propelled beyond the boundaries of existing scientific dogma." In a 1985 Associated Press interview, DeBakey said, "I'm accused of being a perfectionist and, in the way it's usually defined, I guess I am. In medicine, and certainly in surgery, you have to be as perfect as possible. There's no room for mistakes." DeBakey was the first to perform replacement of arterial aneurysms and obstructive lesions in the mid-1950s. He later developed bypass pumps and connections to replace excised segments of diseased arteries.

A tireless worker and a stern taskmaster, DeBakey literally had scores of patients under his care at any one time, helping to establish his name as a leading cardiovascular surgeon. By 1992, he had performed more than 50,000 surgeries.

"Man was born to work hard," he said.

His patients ranged from penniless peasants from the Third World to such famous figures as the Duke of Windsor, the Shah of Iran, King Hussein of Jordan, Turkish President Turgut Ozal, Nicaraguan Leader Violetta Chamorro and Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. But he said celebrities don't get special treatment on the operating table: "Once you incise the skin, you find that they are all very similar."

He made headlines again in 1996 when he flew to Moscow to help examine ailing Russian President Boris Yeltsin and served as a consultant when he underwent surgery.

DeBakey served as chairman of the President's Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke during Johnson's administration and helped establish the National Library of Medicine. He was author of more than 1,000 medical reports, papers, chapters and books on surgery, medicine and related topics.

DeBakey also trained hundreds of cardiovascular surgeons who now are practicing throughout the world. Among them was famed heart surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley, who later became DeBakey's chief rival in the Texas Medical Center.

"I like my work, very much. I like it so much that I don't want to do anything else," DeBakey said.

Baylor University College of Medicine was a fledgling medical school when DeBakey joined it in 1948, five years after it moved from Dallas to Houston.

The Waco-based university later cut its ties to the school, but DeBakey, as the medical school's president and later chancellor, had helped to establish its own identity.

In 1953, DeBakey performed the first Dacron graft to replace part of an occluded artery. In the 1960s, he began coronary arterial bypasses.

In 1962, DeBakey received a $2.5 million grant to work on an artificial heart that could be implanted without being linked to an exterior console. In 1966, he was the first to successfully use a partial artificial heart _ a left ventricular bypass pump. It was the first implantation of a complete artificial heart by Cooley in 1969 that led to a feud between the two surgeons that lasted until the two publicly made amends in 2007. The patient, Haskell Karp, 47, lived on the artificial heart for nearly five days, then received a heart transplant, but died 36 hours later. Cooley was censured by the medical school and the National Heart Institute for using the experimental device, and he and DeBakey traded accusations about their research. Cooley, who contended Karp was so ill he had no choice but to operate, left Baylor and established the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in the Texas Medical Center.

Meanwhile, the effort to save lives through heart transplants was stalled. Dr. Christiaan Bernard in South Africa had performed the first human heart transplant in history in late 1967. In the United States, DeBakey and Cooley were among those who began performing the transplants, but death rates were high because the recipients' bodies rejected the new organs.

The advent of a new anti-rejection drug, cyclosporine, gave new impetus to organ transplants in the 1980s. In 1984, DeBakey performed his first heart transplant in 14 years. His work as an inventor continued. In the late 1990s, DeBakey brought out a ventricular assist device touted as one-tenth the size of current heart pumps that helped ease suffering for patients waiting for heart transplants.

In the late 1990s, he took an active role in creating the Michael E. DeBakey Heart Institute at Hays Medical Center in Hays, Kansas. DeBakey was born Sept. 7, 1908, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the son of Lebanese immigrants. He got interested in medicine while listening to physicians chat at his father's pharmacy. "I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. I just didn't know what kind," DeBakey once said.

He received his bachelor's and medical degrees from Tulane University in New Orleans.

He recalled in 1999 that the time he finished medical school in 1932, "there was virtually nothing you could do for heart disease. If a patient came in with a heart attack, it was up to God." Early in his career, DeBakey invented a new blood transfusion needle, a new suture scissors and a new colostomy clamp. He began teaching at Tulane in 1937.

During World War II, DeBakey worked in Europe as director of the surgeon general's surgical consultants.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said his five-year economic plan unveiled in 2016 had failed "tremendously" in almost every sector, though he praised workers for maintaining "stable situations" despite the coronavirus. (REUTERS)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said his five-year economic plan unveiled in 2016 had failed "tremendously" in almost every sector, though he praised workers for maintaining "stable situations" despite the coronavirus. (REUTERS)

North Korea's trade with China plunges 80% as Covid-19 lockdown bites

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 03:28 PM IST
China is North Korea's top ally and accounts for some 90% of its trade volumes. Two-way trade plummeted nearly 80.7% to $539 million last year from 2019, Chinese customs data released on Monday showed.
Close
After receiving her vaccination against the novel coronavirus, 90-year-old Odores H. sits under the domed roof of the vaccination centre in the Festhalle in Frankfurt, Germany,(AP)
After receiving her vaccination against the novel coronavirus, 90-year-old Odores H. sits under the domed roof of the vaccination centre in the Festhalle in Frankfurt, Germany,(AP)

Covid-19 pandemic could be source of global crises for years: WEF

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 03:26 PM IST
While the impact of the pandemic is dominant at the moment, other events will likely come to the fore, according to the survey.
Close
Worries over possible unrest or other security threats following the attack on the Congress earlier this month seem to have abated somewhat as investors study the implications for markets of further stimulus. (Representative Image)(Reuters/ File photo)
Worries over possible unrest or other security threats following the attack on the Congress earlier this month seem to have abated somewhat as investors study the implications for markets of further stimulus. (Representative Image)(Reuters/ File photo)

World shares mostly higher as Biden inauguration approaches

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 03:10 PM IST
Benchmarks were higher in Paris, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong but slipped in Shanghai. World markets were subdued on Monday, with US exchanges closed for a holiday.
Close
Trump intends to leave in the morning for his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, arriving before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.(REUTERS)
Trump intends to leave in the morning for his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, arriving before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.(REUTERS)

Trump leaves town an outcast, trailed by Covid-19 pandemic, joblessness

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 03:03 PM IST
The last president who chose not to attend his successor’s inauguration was Andrew Johnson in 1869, another impeached leader.
Close
A member of the medical team administers a coronavirus Covid-19 vaccine shot at the NHS vaccination centre in Robertson House in Stevenage, north of London on January 14, 2021 (Photo by Leon Neal / POOL / AFP)(AFP)
A member of the medical team administers a coronavirus Covid-19 vaccine shot at the NHS vaccination centre in Robertson House in Stevenage, north of London on January 14, 2021 (Photo by Leon Neal / POOL / AFP)(AFP)

British hospitals use blockchain to track Covid-19 vaccines

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:59 PM IST
Two hospitals, in central England's Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick, are expanding their use of a distributed ledger, an offshoot of blockchain, from tracking vaccines and chemotherapy drugs to monitoring fridges storing Covid-19 vaccines.
Close
Threats to President-elect Joe Biden’s security prompted him to scrap his plan to travel to Washington on an Amtrak train.(AP)
Threats to President-elect Joe Biden’s security prompted him to scrap his plan to travel to Washington on an Amtrak train.(AP)

Inauguration day: Biden arrival in Washington framed by division, heavy security

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:57 PM IST
Biden will spend the night at Blair House, the guest residence across the street from the White House.
Close
The city reported 56 new infections on Tuesday, of which 55 are local cases and 23 are untraceable, government officials said at a health department briefing Tuesday afternoon.(Bloomberg Photo)
The city reported 56 new infections on Tuesday, of which 55 are local cases and 23 are untraceable, government officials said at a health department briefing Tuesday afternoon.(Bloomberg Photo)

Hong Kong set to extend pandemic control measures amid surging infections

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:50 PM IST
The moves come after the Asian financial hub reported 107 daily Covid-19 infections on Monday, the most in a month, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a weekly news briefing Tuesday morning.
Close
Russia has rejected calls from the US and European governments to release Navalny.(via REUTERS)
Russia has rejected calls from the US and European governments to release Navalny.(via REUTERS)

Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny urges West to impose sanctions on Putin allies

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:47 PM IST
Navalny identified eight people as potential targets for punitive measures, including billionaire Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich.
Close
A supporter of US President Donald Trump leaves a note in the office of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.(AFP)
A supporter of US President Donald Trump leaves a note in the office of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.(AFP)

Police arrest woman accused of laptop theft from Pelosi's office

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:41 PM IST
FBI officials said a caller claiming to be an ex of Williams said friends of hers showed him a video of her taking a laptop computer or hard drive from Pelosi's office.
Close
Angela Merkel (File Photo)(Reuters Photo)
Angela Merkel (File Photo)(Reuters Photo)

Germany's Merkel, state leaders ponder tougher virus rules

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 01:56 PM IST
The country's infection rate has stabilized in recent days, indicating that existing restrictions may have been effective in bringing down the numbers.
Close
On Monday, the Japanese Health Ministry said that the three cases were recorded in Shizuoka among people aged between 20 and 70.(Reuters)
On Monday, the Japanese Health Ministry said that the three cases were recorded in Shizuoka among people aged between 20 and 70.(Reuters)

Japan's Shizuoka Prefecture to introduce alert mode over UK Covid-19 variant

ANI, Tokyo
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 01:55 PM IST
The Japanese government has already declared a state of emergency in 11 of the 47 prefectures, which will last through February 7.
Close
FILE PHOTO: Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn looks on while greeting royalists at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand November 1, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo(REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn looks on while greeting royalists at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand November 1, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo(REUTERS)

Thailand court gives record 43-year sentence for insulting king

AP, Bangkok
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 01:25 PM IST
Violating Thailand's lese majeste law — known widely as Article 112 — is punishable by three to 15 years’ imprisonment per count.
Close
Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers assembling during military training at Pamir Mountains in Kashgar, northwestern China's Xinjiang region on January 4. (AFP)
Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers assembling during military training at Pamir Mountains in Kashgar, northwestern China's Xinjiang region on January 4. (AFP)

PLA holds Tibet drill to smoothen joint ops amid border friction with India

By Sutirtho Patranobis , edited by Vinod Janardhanan
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 01:07 PM IST
The exercise involved ground assault forces as well as the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) aviation unit, which deployed attack helicopters for the drill, China’s official military media reported.
Close
Joe Biden's nominee for national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told CNN that the new administration would support “diplomacy” with the Taliban.(Reuters)
Joe Biden's nominee for national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told CNN that the new administration would support “diplomacy” with the Taliban.(Reuters)

Taliban calls Joe Biden to honor deal to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan

Bloomberg
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 12:34 PM IST
“Steps must now be taken to end the war, not to prolong it, and the agreement was made for the purpose,” Mohammad Naeem, a senior spokesman in the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said.
Close
US First Lady Melania Trump smiles to US President Donald Trump at theWhite House on August 27, 2020 . (AFP file)
US First Lady Melania Trump smiles to US President Donald Trump at theWhite House on August 27, 2020 . (AFP file)

Here is how Trump, the least liked US president, will spend his last day in office

By Yashwant Raj, Edited by Vinod Janardhanan
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:27 PM IST
Trump presidency’s average approval rating of 41% is the lowest recorded by Gallup, which has tracked American presidents daily for decades
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP