Eugene Braunwald: Heart to Heart

braunwald Eugene Braunwald, who gets credit for presiding over the modern science of cardiology, is reminding us how little, in fact, the best doctors and textbooks professed to know about heart attacks when he got to medical school around 1950. A heart attack was considered a bolt out of the blue or an act of god. They couldn’t be anticipated; they could barely be  treated. On rough average, it took a heart attack patient 12 hours to get the hospital and be seen by a doctor; a third died on the way; a third died when they got there, specially when they were set apart at great distance from the nurse’s station to give the injured hearts a chance to rest. It was World War II that triggered a tremendous change, when American doctors at the front faced  troops whose chests had already been blown open by bullets and shrapnel. By the end of the war there was no question that the beating heart could  be operated on, and the rest – open heart surgery, bypasses, catheters, stents, and the miracle drugs – is history. Dr. Braunwald says he had a hell of a ride through a half century of “the era of  the heart;” if he were starting again today he says he’d want to be plunging into the era of the brain, hoping to do for alzheimer’s what he did for sudden death by heart attack.

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