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Book and Media Reviews
December 9, 2009

The Operated Heart at Autopsy

JAMA. 2009;302(22):2488-2493. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1819

Hearts can never be made practical until they are made unbreakable.—L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz

Hearts often break in the figurative sense. Sometimes they break in the literal sense. Occasionally they are found to be broken at birth. This fragile organ cannot be made “unbreakable”; however, it can be mended. Occasionally, despite every intention to the contrary, the mending is unsuccessful and the results are fatal.

The Operated Heart at Autopsy aims to provide assistance to pathologists in the performance of autopsies of patients who have undergone surgical treatment of the heart. The author, an erstwhile cardiac surgeon turned cardiac pathologist, is well qualified to assist in this challenging task. This guide is an instance of the surgeon holding the pathologist's hand—a plausible reversal of the usual respective roles.