C. Walton Lillehei

Clarence Walton Lillehei (also: C. Walton Lillehei, born October 23, 1918 in Minneapolis, † July 5, 1999 in St. Paul ) was an American surgeon. He led in the 1950s by the world's first open-heart surgery and is therefore considered one of the finest doctors in the history of surgery, as well as co-founder of the heart and thoracic surgery. In 1955 he received the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research.


Clarence Walton Lillehei was born in 1918 in Minneapolis and studied at the University of Minnesota, where he in 1939 a bachelor's degree (BS ) acquired in 1942 and finished his medical studies. After a deployment in the health of the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II, he returned in 1945 returned to the University of Minnesota, where he completed his practical training. In 1949 he was a lecturer in surgery at the Medical Faculty of the University. A year later, a lymphosarcoma was diagnosed with a 5 - year survival probability of only five to ten percent with him. He underwent surgical treatment and subsequent radiotherapy and survived the disease. In 1951, he earned a master's degree (MS) in Physiology and a Ph.D. in surgery. He then worked at the University of Minnesota until 1967 as a professor of surgery and developed a special interest in the field of cardiac surgery.

In the first half of the 1950s, Lillehei wrote the history of medicine by several pioneering heart operations. On September 2, 1952, he participated in the world's first, in hypothermia (hypothermia ) in part supported open-heart surgery, which was led by his colleague John F. Lewis. However, this surgical technique was found to be inadequate for the treatment of complicated congenital heart defects. On March 26, 1954 Lillehei resulted in a boy whose heart had a defect in the ventricular septum, the first heart operation by, in which the blood circulation and oxygenation of the patient was carried out by a designated as a cross- circulation technique. The blood of the boy was transported by a pump into the femoral vein of his father, from where it is enriched with oxygen passed back into the carotid artery of the boy. Through this procedure, which lasted a total of 19 minutes, the operative treatment of the heart, without subcooling, and without the use of a heart -lung machine was impossible. Although the operation was a success in terms of correction of the heart defect, the boy died eleven days later of pneumonia.

Lillehei operated on with this technique over the next 15 months, 45 patients with otherwise untreatable heart defects, most of whom were younger than two years old, and thus rescued 32 of them life. These include, among others, the first successfully treated patients with atrioventricular septal defect and were with tetralogy of Fallot. Although cross circulation because of the associated risks for the donor as well as due to the development of a practical heart -lung machine no distribution found Lillehei got together with three colleagues for these pioneering the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research, considered the highest medical and scientific award in the United States. He is also the winner of the Gairdner Foundation International Award ( 1963).

Other breakthroughs in the field of cardiac surgery with substantial participation of Lillehei was the development and use of the first pacemaker in 1958 and the development and application of the first artificial heart valves. In addition, he contributed to the development of the heart -lung machine and the optimization of the targeted application of hypothermia in cardiac surgery. In 1967 he moved to Cornell University, where he became head of the surgical department and dealt among other things with the simultaneous transplantation of multiple organs. Eight years later, he returned to the University of Minnesota. Due to increasing vision problems due to his previous radiation treatment, he was, however, forced to abandon his work as a surgeon at the age of 55 years. He was henceforth mainly in the field of training and counseling. In 1979 he was Medical Director for the heart valve of the company St. Jew Medical.

Among the doctors who have been trained by him, included, among others, the South African heart surgeon Christiaan Barnard, in 1967 the world's first heart transplant performed, and the American Norman Shumway, who repeated this operation a year later in the USA. Lillehei died in 1999 at the age of 80 years in St. Paul from prostate cancer and was survived by his wife, with whom he was married for 52 years and had one daughter and three sons. After him is named, among others, the Lillehei Heart Institute at the University of Minnesota. On the occasion of his 70th birthday in 1978 was also at the same university the " C. Walton and Richard C. Lillehei Chair in Cardiovascular Surgery " (English C. Walton and Richard C. Lillehei Professorship in Cardiovascular Surgery ) was established. His brother Richard Lillehei, who had also worked as a surgeon and worked at the University of Minnesota, distinguished himself particularly in the area of organ transplantation and led in 1966 the first transplant of a pancreas in a patient by.