Christiaan Barnard

From Academic Kids

Christiaan Neethling Barnard (8 November 19222 September 2001) was an innovative South African heart surgeon who became known for performing the world's first human open heart transplantation.


Early life

Barnard was born and grew up in Beaufort West. He studied medicine at the University of Cape Town, did his internship and residency at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, and became a general practitioner in Ceres, a rural town in the Western Cape province. While practicing there in 1948, he married a nurse, Aletta Louw. In 1951, he returned to Cape Town to work at two hospitals and complete his Masters degree, receiving that in 1953 from the University of Cape Town. From 1956, he attended the University of Minnesota to study surgery. While in Minneapolis he became involved in cardiology and chose that as his specialty.

He was appointed cardiothoracic surgeon at the Groote Schuur Hospital in 1958, establishing the hospital's first heart unit. He had also experimented for several years with animal heart transplants following the first successful kidney transplant in 1954 — Barnard performed the first kidney transplant in South Africa in 1959. He also lectured at the University of Cape Town, and in 1961 he was made head of cardiothoracic surgery at the university.

Heart transplant

The world's first open heart transplant operation was performed on 3 December 1967 in an operation lasting nine hours and using a team of thirty persons. The patient, Louis Washkansky, was 55 years old and suffering from diabetes and heart disease. The transplant heart came from a young woman, Denise Darvall, killed in a road accident. Washkansky survived the operation and lived for eighteen days, before succumbing to pneumonia induced by the immuno-suppressive drugs he was taking.

Barnard was quite photogenic and enjoyed the media attention following the operation, which made him famous around the world. Barnard continued to perform heart transplants: a transplant operation was conducted on 2 January 1968, and the patient, Philip Blaiberg, survived for 19 months. His last patient lived for 24 years after his transplant ([1] ( In 1969, Barnard got a divorce, and in 1970 he married the glamorous Barbara Zoellner.

He also pioneered new and risky techniques, including double transplants (1974), artificial valves and using animal hearts for emergency treatment (1977). He performed 10 orthotopic transplants (19671973), and Barnard or his group performed 48 heterotopic transplants (19751983). The introduction of cyclosporine meant a resumption in orthotopic operations.


Barnard divorced in 1982, and retired due to stiffness brought on by rheumatoid arthritis in his hands in 1983, mostly due to activities on his ranch in the Great Karoo.

He had become very interested in anti-aging research, and his reputation suffered in 1986 when he promoted Glycel, a product that was withdrawn by the United States Food and Drug Administration soon thereafter.

He got married for a third time in 1988 to the youthful Karin Setzkorn, divorcing again in 2000. He died whilst on holiday in Paphos, Cyprus after suffering an acute asthma attack, leaving behind five children.

See also

de:Christiaan Barnard es:Christiaan Barnard eo:Christiaan BARNARD fr:Christiaan Barnard it:Christiaan Barnard nl:Christiaan Barnard no:Christiaan Barnard pl:Christiaan Barnard


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