Timeline: Hoosier Hearts Have Come a Long Way

For decades, Indiana physicians have been on the cutting edge of cardiac care—and they’re not done yet.


The first pediatric open-heart surgery in Indiana takes place at Riley Hospital for Children.

Bill Cook starts Cook Medical in his Bloomington apartment. His company, still creating innovations today, will become the first to package the three primary components for heart catheterization (needles, wire guides, and catheters) in one set.

Indiana’s first adult open-heart surgery takes place at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital.

Drs. Cass Pinkerton and Donald Rothbaum execute Indiana’s first successful angio-plasty—a procedure that mechanically widens narrowed or obstructed arteries—at St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital.

Dr. Harold Halbrook performs Indiana’s first heart transplant on Annie Gardner, a 38-year-old Crawfordsville woman who suffers from cardiomyopathy—a hereditary deterioration of the heart muscle—at IU Health Methodist Hospital. Without surgery, doctors say, she would’ve had only a year to live.

Doctors implant the state’s first ventricular assist device (VAD), which takes over the pumping functions of a ventricle until a heart transplant can be performed. VADs support either the heart’s left or right ventricle, or both.

The first total artificial heart implantation in Indiana happens at IU Health Methodist Hospital using the Jarvik 7, five-year-old technology designed to replace the functions of the human heart. The device comes with an external pump the size of a washing machine that requires patients to stay in the hospital while awaiting a donor.

Dr. John Brown performs Indiana’s first pediatric heart transplant, at IU Health University Hospital. The patient, a 14-year-old with a complex congenital heart abnormality, is still alive and approaching 40.

“From a quality-of-life standpoint,” says Dr. Wang of the SynCardia Total Artificial Heart, “this is an enormous step forward.”

At IU Health Methodist Hospital, Drs. Thomas Wozniak and Arthur Coffey complete the state’s first robotic mitral-valve repair using the lauded da Vinci surgical robot device. Valve repair previously required a 6-to-8-inch incision through the breastbone; with the da Vinci, only a two-inch cut is needed.

Annie Gardner, Indiana’s first heart-transplant recipient, dies at age 63, a quarter-century after her first implant (and eight years after her second, also performed by Dr. Halbrook). Her cause of death is not released.

Community Heart and Vascular Hospital opens the state’s first cardiovascular genetics center to identify those who are at risk for inherited heart conditions and offer preventative care and early intervention.

March 2013
St. Vincent Heart Center of Indiana is the first hospital in the state to participate in the U.S. clinical trial for ABSORB III, a bioresorbable heart stent. Unlike conventional stents, which serve as permanent metal cages inside a heart vessel, ABSORB remains in place for six months, at which point the body’s metabolic processes begin to—you guessed it—absorb the stent.

March 2013
Dr. Marc Gerdisch becomes the first surgeon in the country to successfully implant an On-X Aortic Prosthetic Valve with Anatomic Sewing Ring into a heart, during surgery at Franciscan St. Francis Health on a 35-year-old man from Ellettsville. So what does that mean? Unlike a tissue valve, which could wear out, this newest version of On-X—with a pure carbon surface and a newly designed cuff that attaches the valve to the heart—promises the longevity of a mechanical valve without the need for blood thinners like Warfarin.

June 2013
Drs. I-wen Wang and Thomas Wozniak become the first in Indiana to implant a patient with a SynCardia Total Artificial Heart, a last-resort device designed to serve as a “bridge to transplant” for people with end-stage heart failure. The SynCardia device reduces the size of the external pump to a portable device that can be carried over the shoulder, allowing patients to be discharged and recuperate at home with family until the time comes to get the heart transplant. “From a quality-of-life standpoint,” says Wang, “this is an enormous step forward.”

August 2013
Eli Lilly launches the Phase 3 clinical trials of Evacetrapib, a new cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) inhibitor that—unlike other medications that only lower bad cholesterol—so far appears to raise good cholesterol, too. That added bonus could possibly help prevent the likes of heart attack and stroke in patients. The company expects to complete this latest trial in 2016.

Illustration by Carl Wiens

This article appeared in the November 2013 issue.

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