13 Jul 2008

Pioneering heart surgeon DeBakey dies

1:33 pm on 13 July 2008

Renowned heart surgeon, Michael DeBakey, who pioneered procedures such as bypass surgery, has died in Houston. He was aged 91.

His best known innovation was the coronary bypass operation for clogged arteries, which he first performed in 1964, using leg veins to bypass blocked or damaged areas between the aorta and coronary arteries. The operation is now common.

In 1932, he created the roller pump, which would be a critical component of the heart-lung machine that helped make open-heart surgery possible.

During World War II, Dr DeBakey served in the Surgeon General's office and was credited with developing mobile Army surgical hospitals - MASH units - that moved medical care closer to the battle lines and hastened treatment of wounded soldiers.

He became a medical celebrity in the 1960s: Marlene Dietrich, Jerry Lewis and Aristotle Onassis were among his patients. So was President Lyndon Johnson.

Dr DeBakey also trained thousands of surgeons during his career. He worked daily into his late 90s, making the rounds at the Methodist Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where he was chancellor emeritus.

Mr DeBakey received many awards in his career, including the Congressional Gold Medal in April 2008 for his lifetime achievements in medicine.