When was congenital heart disease discovered?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 40 thousand children are born with a congenital heart defect each year. While there have been many developments in how CHD is treated, there is still no cure. 

However, the past over 70 years have shown repeated breakthroughs in both the scientific and medical communities regarding congenital heart disease. Keep reading for a more in-depth look at CHD milestones throughout history. 

CHD Milestones

It could be argued that Leonardo da Vinci first discovered congenital heart disease as early as the fifteenth century. One of the earliest depictions of a partial anomalous pulmonary venous return – when the heart’s pulmonary veins are incorrectly placed – was found in one of his drawings. This could have been a coincidence because hardly any knowledge of CHD progress has been found throughout history until the twentieth century. Below is a brief timeline of congenital heart disease accomplishments from the 1940’s to today. 

1944: The first effective repair of a heart defect that narrows the heart’s main, large blood vessel. Completed by Clarence Crawford in Karolinska Hospital in Sweden, this was one of the first instances of aortic cross clamping to help remedy aortic coarctation. 

This same year, the famous Blalock-Taussig shunt was created by surgeon Alfred Blalock and paediatric cardiologist Helen B. Taussig at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital. This shunt increases the heart’s blood flow in certain heart defects and has helped save countless newborns.

1948: The Blalock-Hanson atrial septectomy is created. Surgeon Alfred Blalock and his resident Rollins Hanson created a method to assist TGA heart defect patients.

1952: Much of CHD research at this time focused on the application of open-heart hypothermic techniques. Though F. John Lewis successfully closed an atrial septal defect during this year at the University of Minnesota, many surgeries were unsuccessful in remedying more complex heart defects.

1953: An atrial septal defect is repaired for the first time by John Gibbon using a heart-lung bypass machine.

1954: C. Walton Lillehei performs complicated cross circulation CHD operations with mortality rates of 200 percent. Although four out of ten patients died per procedure, he continued to pursue his methods. He is now known as the “father of open heart surgery.”

1957: Known for his origami-like finesse, Åke Senning was the first cardiac surgeon to successfully complete an atrial switch operation for the heart defect TGA. His technique was highly regarded among his peers. 

1963: Though everyone praised Senning for his work, it wasn’t an accessible technique for everyone. Bill Mustard created the Mustard Procedure in 1963 which became the less demanding, standard operation for TGA defects. 

1967: The Ross Procedure was created by Donald Ross in London and still used to this day for aortic valve disease.

1968: Heart ventricular bypassing is developed and helps expand procedures to complex heart defects. 

1976: Innovative advancements made by surgeons like Adib Dominos Jatene in Brazil help push successful atrial and arterial switches for CHD forward. 

1981: One of the most fatal heart conditions, hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), has a breakthrough at Boston’s Children’s Hospital by Bill Norwood. 

2000: Several successful CHD procedures occurred, including a percutaneous pulmonary valve implantation and trans-catheter implant. Trans-catheter implants in the heart are now an extremely common intervention for CHD patients. 

There have been many breakthroughs in CHD procedures and treatment throughout the years. Though there’s still much to learn when it comes to CHD treatment, you can get CHD support for you or a loved one at Conquering CHD. 

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