Sir Brian Barrett-Boyes

First aortic valve replacement

First aortic valve replacement - Sir Brian Barrett-Boyes

Kiwi surgeon Brian Barratt-Boyes (b. 1924, d. 2006) pioneered radical heart treatments at Greenlane hospital.

Sir Brian (as he became in 1971) was born and educated in New Zealand, going overseas after gaining his MD to further his training in the US. He returned to New Zealand in 1958 to head the heart unit at Greenlane Hospital in Auckland, a role he was to fill for 30 years. In the late fifties the practice of heart surgery was brand new - Christiaan Barnard and others having pioneered techniques just a few years earlier - and Barratt-Boyes set about creating a world-class facility at Greenlane to study it. Practicing on sheep and cadavers, Barratt-Boyes and his team worked out a way to replace faulty heart valves in humans with those from donors, taking the heart valves from dead bodies soon after death and storing them, basically in a fridge, for up to 4 weeks.

They reasoned, and it is still considered the case today, that using transplanted heart valves would be more successful, and more natural, than creating false valves out of synthetic materials.