On this Page:

A short History of Milestones in Treating Heart Disease

A 30 minute video about the history of inventing radiographs... something that changed medicine drastically.

On Other Pages About Heart Disease:
(There is a complete directory of links
at the bottom of the page)

Introduction to Heart Disease in Dogs and Cats

Heartworm Disease in Dogs and Cats

Cardiac Hypertrophy    

Valvular Insufficiency      

A Little Bit About The History of Heart Disease
by Roger Ross, DVM   FoxNest Veterinary Hospital

Some introductory comments;
Heart diseases of various types is probably the biggest killer of Americans. Apparently about 350,000 deaths a year in the US. 

Compare that with approximately 50,000 dead in the 10 years of fighting in Viet Nam or the 3 years of war in Korea. 

In the 30 years since I left veterinary school, the advances in the understanding and treatment of heart disease has made quantum leaps. 

It's a rare doctor, whether veterinarian or physician, who can really keep up with the latest improvements; they're overwhelming.  There's no shame in this, it's just fact, and a wonderous one at that. Most of us do try to keep up though.

Death rates due to heart diseases are starting to go down drastically.

I mention all this mainly because it's interesting just to be alive when so much innovation is going on, but also to emphasize the need to take your pet to a cardiac specialist, if you can afford it, once your veterinarian detects heart disease.  The innovations, ultrasounds, echocardiology, MRI's, Cat scans, and therapies available now are beyond the scope of most general practictioners.

We now have the technology to save more lives than ever,  but the technology and expertise is expensive.  This is one reason we encourage you to have pet insurance.

Milestones in the treatment
of heart disease:

1628:  British physician William Harvey writes a major book "De Motu Cordis" that credits the heart ... not the liver as previously thought ... to be center of the cardiovascular system.  He correctly descibed the heart as a pump and the arteries and veins as the circulation system

1809:  Scottish anatomist Allan Burns demonstrates the association of high blood pressure with angina (chest pain) and sudden death due to heart attacks (which had previously been attributed to "acts of God")  The demonstration is still valid today:  put a tourniquet on your bicep and then exercise the arm.  It won't be long until extreme fatigue and pain sets in and the arm goes limp.  Remove the tourniquet and soon all is well.  This mimics what happens to the heart if coronary arteries (arteries supplying the heart with blood and nutrients) are restricted due to clogging (the most common form of severe heart disease today)

A little History
relating to Heart Disease

There's an "app" for ekg's now !

This page in it's first draft... please be patient
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1816:  French physician Rene Laennec (pictured above) devises the stethoscope which magnifies the cardiac sounds allowing us to detect murmers and valvular diseases.  Midwifes were using something similar to a stethoscope to listen for the presence of a fetal heart beat, so I'm reluctant to give Dr Laennec too much credit for his "invention", but the interesting thing about the stethoscope is that he apparently devised it to keep from putting his ear up against the bosom of his female patients, which he thought improper! 

(No wonder it took so long to invent the thing)

Note: the above story about Dr Rene Laennec may not be 100% accurate.  Other related stories indicate that the good doctor may have been telling a white lie to be polite; maybe he was a fussy sort of person and didn't want to get to close to patients with body odor.  Or maybe he had an inkling that physicians that got too close to sick patients might also get the disease.  And maybe he shouldn't get too much credit at all; midwives had been using a similar cone device for centuries to listen to fetal heartbeats.

Valvular diseases, by the way, were the big killer prior to the invention of penicillin.  Both strept and syphilis were common causes of severe heart valve disease leading to death.  Click here to go our page about the history of antibiotics.

1895:  The invention of radiography might be thought of as one of the most important medical break through of all.  There's an excellent video about this copied below:

Women are just as much at risk for heart disease as men, despite common thinking.  Learn the symptoms.
Likewise, cats are more likely to have heart disease than dogs (with the exception of heartworm disease) and symptoms are often subtle until it's too late.
Stethescopes have progressed a long way from the wooden tubes used by Dr. Laennec (pictured at right).  The one pictured above is electronic and not only selectively filters out unwanted sounds, but amplifies the desired sounds by 20 fold.  And it can probably be downloaded in real time via blue tooth to speakers so that multiple doctors can hear and discuss the sounds at the same time.  Soon, computers will be able to analyze the sounds and may turn out to be better than humans at identifying abnormalities.
1903:  Dutch scientist Willem Einthoven invents the EKG which detects heart attacks and rhythem disorders.

1905:  The blood pressure cuff is invented.

1912:   American James Herick discovers the association of clotted arteries to heart attacks.

1929:  German Werner Forssmann proves that he can insert a catheter into the heart.  He receives mostly ridicule at first, but 10 years later he gets the Nobel Prize along with American Doctors Andre Cournand and Dickinson Richards after demonstrating the usefulness of this technique.

1958:  Dr Mason Sones of the Cleveland Clinic learns how to insert a catheter into the heart and inject dye that highlighted where blood clots were.  This led to coronary artery bypass surgery, saving thousands of lives.  This later led to stents instead of surgery and host of other improvements.

1964-1982: Formal development of an artificial heart began in 1964 after the National Institutes of Health launched an artificial heart program culminating in the development and implantation of the first artificial heart implanted in a human by Doctors Domingo Liotta and Denton Cooley at the Texas Heart Institute in 1969.  This device wasn't portable though.

In 1982, researchers at the University of Utah developed the Jarvik-7 TAH, which was surgically implanted by William DeVries with the intention of permanently sustaining life in a human. The device was implanted into a patient named Barney Clark, who survived 112 days.  The video below tells the story.

This page is in it's first draft.  there's a lot more to come.