Cardiovascular disease pioneer DeBakey dies

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Michael E. DeBakey, MD, a trailblazer in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, died Friday in Houston at the age of 99.

As a 23-year-old medical student at Tulane University in New Orleans, DeBakey invented the roller pump, which became an integral part of the heart-lung machine and helped make open-heart surgery safer and widely available. His newest generation of heart assist pump, developed in his 80’s, is evidence of his continued contributions, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

DeBakey was the first to perform successful excision and graft replacement of aneurysms of the thoracic aorta and obstructive lesions of the major arteries. A pioneer in the development of an artificial heart, DeBakey was the first to use a left ventricular bypass pump successfully.

He also performed the first aortocoronary bypass operation and the first successful carotid endarterectomy in 1953, which established the field of surgery for strokes.

In 1964, DeBakey and associates performed the first successful aortocoronary-artery bypass with autogenous vein graft. In 1968, he led a team of surgeons in a multiple-transplant procedure in which the heart, kidneys and one lung of a donor were transplanted into four recipients.

The AHA said that DeBakey had performed more than 60,000 cardiovascular procedures and trained thousands of surgeons globally.

In April, DeBakey accepted the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush at the U.S. Capitol.