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Open Heart: Intracardiac Surgery at the University of Minnesota

The Cross-Circulated Heart



Dr. C. Walton Lillehei and a surgical team performing an open heart surgery in the research laboratory

Dr. C. Walton Lillehei and a surgical team performing an open heart surgery in the research laboratory

By the time surgeons at the University of Minnesota performed the world’s first successful open heart surgery in September of 1952, research was already underway on alternative procedures.  

Hypothermia only provided 5-7 minutes for circulatory arrest without harm to the body. Though this was enough time to correct atrial septal defects, additional time was needed to repair more complicated heart defects.

Associate professor of surgery C. Walton Lillehei, along with his research assistant Morley Cohen, tested the length of time that circulation could be suspended without damage to the organs and tissues of the body on canines in the research laboratory.