Journey into the Heart

Journey into the Heart Cover

Journey into the Heart

A Tale of Pioneering Doctors and Their Race to Transform Cardiovascular Medicine

By David Monagan; David O. Williams

Gotham, Hardcover, 9781592402656, 400pp.

Publication Date: February 1, 2007

Description

The thrilling story of the brilliant and audacious pioneers who revolutionized cardiovascular medicine.

The history of heart surgery is a fascinating saga. In the dark ages of medicine, physicians commonly prescribed blood letting as a treatment for ridding the vascular system of diabolical elements and bizarre medicaments like brain extracts, and until quite recently, the basic treatment for a heart attack was to lie down and bear it. Within the last century, physicians have evolved from fearing to even touch a living human heart to rebuilding and even transplanting hearts with beguiling, if sometimes dangerous wizardry. Not long ago, cardiac surgery was celebrated as akin to miracle working, yet a new therapeutic age has since taken hold. Today heart attacks can often be stopped in their midst, and astonishing non-invasive surgical techniques regularly eliminate any need for a knife, while clearing vital arteries in just minutes.

Journey Into the Heart traces this epic quest involving a cast of thousands who struggled to solve medical complexities that long boggled the most brilliant minds on earth. David Monagan tells their story as never before, for the first time paying tribute to the daring tactics and outsized personalities of scarcely appreciated pioneers from Oregon to East Germany. The risks some took were hard to fathom: when a promising therapy seemed far too dangerous to perform on a patient, charismatic doctors experimented on themselves. Meanwhile, a multi-billion dollar business involving angioplasty and countless related knifeless procedures charged into life, often overshadowing the noble quest for innovation with a race for profit. The great figures behind these advances have been little chronicled, but their lives encompassed all the triumph and anguish of the last century.

Andreas Gruentzig, an East German "child of the rubble," took center stage in revolutionizing cardiovascular care, developing the first tiny balloon-tipped probes in his Zurich apartment. Despite harsh skepticism, Gruentzig demonstrated that his gadgets could transform the lives of millions. His findings catapulted him to worldwide fame, and he was nominated for the Nobel Prize. After being lured to Emory University, Gruentzig's career escalated to dizzying heights, and then concluded tragically with an Icarus- like ending. Journey Into the Heart is a compelling biography and a multi-faceted tale of medical discovery and business intrigue, all centered on the seat of human life. The twentieth century journey to understand the human heart was a saga on par with the race to the moon.