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Tex Heart Inst J. 2006; 33(2): 274–275.
PMCID: PMC1524691

Norman E. Shumway and the Early Heart Transplants

To the Editor:

I read, with interest and respect, Dr. Denton Cooley's fine editorial tribute to Norman Shumway.1 Norm was my hero and mentor from the time I met him in 1955 at the University of Minnesota. He befriended me when I was the greenest of surgical trainees, fresh out of medical school at the University of Cincinnati; Norm was about 32 years old.

My recollection is that Norm performed the first adult (human-to-human) heart transplant in the United States. Two 1968 publications in the American Journal of Cardiology provide similar information.2,3 The first heart transplant in the world to a human was performed by James Hardy at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson on January 23, 1964. The recipient was a 68-year-old man, but the donor was a chimpanzee; the patient died 1 hour later of acute rejection. This transplant apparently “didn't count” because it was not human-to-human. Christiaan Barnard, also a friend of mine from the early days in Minneapolis, returned to South Africa, where he performed his epic operation on December 3, 1967, at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. The patient, a 54-year-old man, received the heart of a 25-year-old woman and survived 18 days until he died of pneumonia. This was considered a transient success.

The first human-to-human heart transplant in the United States and the second in the world was performed by Adrian Kantrowitz 3 days later, on December 6, 1967, at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. The recipient was an 18-day-old male infant who received the heart of a 2-day-old anencephalic male. The procedure, carried out under hypothermia rather than cardiopulmonary bypass, was technically successful; however, the patient died 6½ hours after surgery with severe metabolic and respiratory acidosis.2,3 Barnard performed his second transplant on January 2, 1968, also at Groote Schuur Hospital. The patient, a 58-year-old man who received the heart of a 24-year-old man, was still alive on October 23, 1968—the date of compilation of the world's earliest heart transplants worldwide.3

Norm Shumway's first patient, the first adult human-to-human heart transplant in the United States, underwent surgery on January 6, 1968, at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California. The patient was a 54-year-old man who received the heart of a 43-year-old man. The recipient died 15 days later of multiple systemic complications.3

The first successful heart transplant in the United States, if survival is measured in months or years rather than hours or days, was performed by Denton Cooley on May 2, 1968, at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. In this instance, a 47-year-old man received the heart of a 15-year-old girl and was alive October 23, 1968 at the time of the worldwide compilation of the earliest heart transplants.3

Allen Silbergleit, MD, PhD
Department of Surgery, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, Pontiac, Michigan, and Departments of Surgery and Physiology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan


1. Cooley DA. In Memoriam: Norman E. Shumway. Tex Heart Inst J 2006;33:1–2.
2. Kantrowitz A, Haller JD, Joos H, Cerruti M, Carstensen HE. Transplantation of the heart in an infant and an adult. Am J Cardiol 1968;22:782–90. [PubMed]
3. Moore FD. Bethesda Conference Report on Cardiac Transplantation; Kantrowitz A, Haller JD. Symposium on Human Heart Transplantation. Introduction. Am J Cardiol 1968;22:761; and Haller JD, Cerruti MM. Heart transplantation in man: compilation of cases. January 1, 1964 to October 23, 1968. Am J Cardiol 1968;22:840–3. [PubMed]

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