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Book and Media Reviews
January 5, 2011

Open Heart: The Radical Surgeons Who Revolutionized Medicine

JAMA. 2011;305(1):99-103. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1945

Open Heart is the story of the individuals who pioneered the development of cardiac surgery. As stated in the preface, “This book can be considered an oral history of heart surgery—that is, the achievements of these men ‘in their own words.’” The author, David Cooper, a heart transplant surgeon, set out in 1987 to interview as many as possible of the pioneer heart surgeons then still living and, when this was not possible, to interview their friends, associates, and students. From an original group of 60, he selected 30 who were responsible for 12 major milestones (chapters) in the development of cardiac surgery. Some worked as individuals, some as members of a team, and some as bitter rivals. The milestones include “closed” heart surgery, the Blalock-Taussig blue-baby operation, early valve surgery, the use of hypothermia, development of the heart-lung machine, artificial valves, coronary bypass surgery, heart transplantation, and mechanical and artificial hearts.

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