Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Wednesday, September 30, 1998 Published at 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK


From the heart - with thanks

Papworth does about 1,500 open-heart operations a year

Ben Milstein: We put patients in baths of ice
Former patients from the pioneering days of open-heart surgery have taken part in a special celebration at Papworth hospital in Cambridgeshire.

It is exactly 40 years to the day since the world famous surgical centre did its first open-heart procedure.

The patient was Pamela Gooding who had a hole in her heart repaired by surgeon Ben Milstein.

On Wednesday, Pamela, now 68, was able to thank again the man who saved her life.

Ice baths

Open-heart operations were extremely dangerous at the time and were attempted by very few doctors.

Patients risked brain damage as their hearts were stopped and the blood-oxygen supply to their heads was cut.

This meant patients had to be put in ice cold baths to slow their metabolisms sufficiently to allow enough time for a procedure to be completed - around 10 minutes.

Today, the heart-lung machine takes over the functions of the organs and allows doctors to work on patients for several hours.

Extra life

Ben Milstein remembers Pamela Gooding's operation clearly.

"I remember this date because it was my birthday," he said. "In celebration of this, at the end of the operation, the whole team seized me and plunged me into the bath. They had recently emptied this and refilled it with warm water."

Another patient, 58-year-old Anthony King also expressed his thanks to Ben Milstein. He credits the surgeon with giving him 35 years extra life.

Mr King's heart condition was so serious his mother was told he would not live beyond his 21st birthday.

"I didn't have many options," he said. "Obviously, I'm very grateful to Papworth. Ben is a fantastic guy."

Pioneering work

Mr Milstein said all heart surgery at the time was part of a big learning experience.

"There was a great deal we didn't understand about how the heart worked and when the heart stopped. Our methods for dealing with it were a bit primitive compared to today."

The present medical director of Papworth Hospital, John Wallwork, said: "Without the pioneering work carried out by Ben Milstein in the late 1950s we wouldn't be able to do the surgery we do today.

"Transplantations grab headlines, but the earlier surgery carried out by Ben set the scene for these later developments."

Papworth carries out about 1,500 open-heart operations a year, including bypass surgery and valve replacements.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

28 Sep 98 | Health
Heart surgery risk may be falling for women

17 Sep 98 | Health
Heart attack risk from short working week

28 Aug 98 | Health
Doctors cure irregular heartbeat

10 Jul 98 | Health
Heart resuscitation for the masses

24 Jun 98 | Health
Cardiac patient sleepwalks home

08 Jun 98 | Latest News
Half of Britons ignorant about heart attack action

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99