Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Heart Healers: This Misfits, Mavericks, and Rebels Who Created the Greatest Medical Breakthroughs of Our Lives, by James Forrester, M.D. St. Martin’s Press, 2015

Until sometime mid-20th century, the heart was considered off limits to the surgeon. No really good medicinal interventions existed- digitalis can only go so far. Heart disease of any sort- inborn, caused by injury, or created by the ravages of time and beef- was considered a fatal diagnosis. Then a few doctors and surgeons took chances. Catheters were threaded through veins to the heart. Hearts were stopped and restarted with electricity. The blood flow was bypassed from the heart and aerated- at first by running it through monkey lungs (that one didn’t work well). Artificial heart valves were developed, and a method of delivering them through the artery rather than cracking open the chest. Stents to open arteries came along, as did drugs to lower cholesterol to slow the development of atherosclerosis. Clots were busted and pacemakers inserted. All of this has happened in a relatively short time; mere decades. The cardiologists who developed these methods all went beyond what anyone thought was possible at the time, and sometimes their first attempts left the patients dead. But they tried again and again until the problem was solved.

The author, a cardiologist himself, writes fluently about the subject. He makes it as interesting as a thriller novel; he has the ability to give technical details and make them easy to understand. He never gets bogged down; the doctors and the patients come alive. If you like medical history, you’ll love this book. 

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I received this book free from the Amazon Vine program in return for an unbiased review. 

Neither of these things influenced my review.  


  1. I will have to look for this one. The Medical Center where I worked (for awhile in Cardiac Critical Care) was in the forefront with heart transplants.