Debakey, Michael

Michael E. DeBakey

Baylor University College of Medicine

For his brilliant leadership and professional accomplishments, which were responsible in a large measure for inaugurating a new era in cardiovascular surgery.

Believing that modern technological developments and the discovery and commercial production of synthetic materials could be applied to the solution of problems of cardiovascular disease hitherto regarded as incurable, Dr. DeBakey began, 30 years ago, to perfect new techniques in the surgical laboratory which might be applied for the benefit of man. Among his early accomplishments was the devising of a roller-type pump that produced minimal trauma to the blood elements. This invention, widely used for its original purpose, stimulated research which was suggested a decade later to Dr. John H. Gibbon for use in his artificial heart-lung apparatus.

Dr. DeBakey's research led him to develop methods of repairing diseased or clot-obstructed blood vessels by the use of replacements of preserved human blood vessels, and later, of artificial blood vessels composed of Dacron or other synthetic materials. With surgical procedures characterized by extraordinary skill, replacement of blood vessels in many parts of the body was accomplished, including the largest artery in the body, the aorta, and the smaller blood vessels located in portions of the body which had hitherto defied successful surgical intervention.

His pioneer contributions include the first successful surgical treatment of aneurysms of various parts of the aorta. Aneurysms are responsible for grave disability when they obstruct the flow of blood, or for sudden death when rupture occurs in the pathologically thinned blood vessel wall, which balloons at the point where the muscular wall is diseased or destroyed.

Large numbers of people have been returned to useful and productive lives with the knowledge that not only had sudden death been averted, but that continuity of the circulation has been restored to permit normal function of organs in the body, or the limbs or the brain.

Additional courageous and even daring surgical procedures, based upon sound laboratory research, have since opened new possibilities for the treatment and even the prevention of some forms of stroke.

His contributions have inspired surgeons throughout the world to higher standards and greater achievements; they honor him, as we do today, as a trail blazer, a medical statesman, and a master surgeon.

Interview with Michael DeBakey