Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What They're Doing

The surgery being performed is called the Blalock-Taussig shunt procedure.

Cut'n'pasting from Wikidocuments:

The original procedure was named for Alfred Blalock, surgeon, Baltimore, (1899–1964) and Helen B. Taussig, cardiologist, Baltimore/Boston, (1898–1986) who, along with Blalock's African American laboratory technician Vivien Thomas (1910–1985), developed the procedure. Taussig, who treated hundreds of infants and children with this disorder, had observed that children with a cyanotic heart defect and a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) lived longer than those without the PDA. It therefore seemed to her that a shunt which mimicked the function of a PDA might relieve the tetralogy patients' poor oxygenation. In 1943, having broached the possibility of a surgical solution to Dr. Robert Gross of Boston without success, Dr. Taussig approached Blalock and Thomas in their Hopkins laboratory in 1943.

According to the account of the original consultation between the three provided in Vivien Thomas' 1985 autobiography Partners of the Heart, Taussig carefully described the anomaly of Tetralogy of Fallot, but made no suggestion about the specific surgical correction required, observing merely that it should be possible to get more blood to the lungs, "as a plumber changes pipes around."

Although Dr. Taussig was not aware of it at that time, Blalock and Thomas had already experimented with such an anastomosis, one that Blalock had conceived years earlier for a different purpose but which had the unanticipated effect of re-routing blood to the lungs. The operation involved the joining of the subclavian artery to the pulmonary artery.

After meeting with Taussig, the two men set about perfecting the operation in the animal lab, with Thomas performing the subclavian-to-pulmonary anastomosis alone in some 200 laboratory dogs, then adapting the instruments for the first human surgery from those used on the experimental animals and coaching Blalock through the first 100 operations on infants.

The procedure is featured in a movie called Something The Lord Made, starring Mos Def and Alan Rickman. Rickman was the bad guy in "Robin Hood." "AND CANCEL CHRISTMAS!"


  1. mos def and alan rickman?!?! if only jackie chan were also featured. we're one shy of a dream team.

  2. You can't break bad on Chan. Jen's a huge Chan fan. I think he really is a modern day Buster Keaton.

    And really good, too. I liked him a ton in Love Actually.



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