On 3 December 1967, Dr Christiaan Barnard in Cape Town shook the world by performing the first-ever human heart transplantation. This was one of the most celebrated medical procedures ever performed and surprisingly it came from Africa, a continent often underestimated and ignored. The research and operative work of a few pioneer surgeons had led to the success, and there were others in different countries who could have been the hero instead. In Europe the first heart transplantation was performed by Dr Christian Cabrol on 27 April 1968. He was the founder of the Department of Cardiac Surgery at Hôpital La Pitié Salpêtrière Paris and the Founding President of the famous organization Association pour le développement des innovations en cardiologie, Recherche et enseignement (ADICARE), to promote research in cardiovascular medicine. He had also made innovative contributions in the development of cardiac surgery. He created a legacy through training many talented French and foreign surgeons. Beyond surgery, he was involved in various political and social activities. He served a term as a member of the European Parliament. Christiaan Barnard, Norman Shumway, Richard Lower, Adrian Kantrowitz, P. K. Sen, Pierre Grondin, and Euriclydes de Jesus Zerbini all previous transplant heroes had departed earlier. Christian Cabrol, the last of the greats passed away on 16 June 2017. At the 50th anniversary of Europe’s first heart transplantation and on the anniversary of Christian Cabrol’s death, we pay our respects and gratitude to this great cardiac surgeon. Introduction The World witnessed an amazing medical accomplishment on the 3 December 1967. The long-cherished dream of replacing a failing human heart with a fresh one from a dying donor became a reality at last. Surgeons and scientists in different parts of the World had long been working to make this apparently impossible task possible. Dr Christiaan Barnard, a little-known South African surgeon from Cape Town quite unexpectedly had made this ultimate triumph, leaving behind his potential and powerful competitors from Europe and America. Europe’s first heart transplant came a few months later. Barnard’s former residency colleague in Minnesota, French surgeon Christian Cabrol performed the first human heart transplantation in Europe at the Hopital La Pitie Salpêtrière Paris on 27 April 1968.1 Thereby, he joined the elite club of pioneer cardiac transplantation surgeons of the 1960s. 27 April 2018 was the Golden Jubilee celebration of that first heart transplantation of Europe. Cardiac transplantation is the final product of long painstaking research work by many surgeons and scientists. Norman Shumway at Palo Alto, California, along with his associate Dr Richard Lower probably deserve the lion’s share of the credit for research work that ultimately led to the successful human heart transplantation.2 Both Shumway and Lower were fully prepared in 1967, just waiting for their opportunity to occur. Adrian Kantrowitz in New York was also ready and had attempted heart transplantation on 6 December 1967 just 3 days after Christiaan Barnard.3 Even in India Dr P. K. Sen, a talented Bengali surgeon working in the King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital Bombay performed Asia’s first transplant on 5 February 19684 before the European transplant. Europe had to wait a little longer. Cabrol performed Europe’s first on 27 April followed a week later by the British first in London on 2 May 1968. Background research Christian Cabrol is a French celebrity. There are many more reading materials about him in French than in English. These materials were researched as they often don’t reach English speaking readers. The corresponding author was a fellow at Hôpital La Pitié Salpêtrière during 2007–8 and is fluent in French. The last author is the current Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Hôpital La Pitié Salpêtrière. There was support and cooperation from the office of ADICARE and its President Prof. Iradj Gandjbakhch. Christian Cabrol was in part trained in the USA, and many of his international publications are in English. These papers were also reviewed using internet search engines. Biography and achievements Christian Cabrol was born in the Chézy-sur-Marne (Aisne) region of Northern France on 16 September 1926. His father was a farmer and his grandfather, Dr Emile, was a village physician. In childhood, Christian was inspired to adopt the profession of his grandpa as he often accompanied him while visiting his patients. Dr Emile had the foresight to inspire his grandson to become a surgeon as he realized the potential for the development of the surgical discipline in the twentieth century.5 Christian had his early education in a small town named Chateau-Thierry north-east of Paris. He was just 13 when the Second World War started in 1939 with Hitler’s army occupying Paris on 14 June 1940. Cabrol joined the French resistance movement. Towards the end of the war he entered Paris with the victorious General Leclerc of the Free French Army who liberated the city on 23 August 1944. After the war, Cabrol entered Salpêtrière Hopital as a student. Salpêtrière later merged with the neighbouring Hôpital La Pitié to form the number one hospital of France Hôpital La Pitié Salpêtrière, where Cabrol spent the rest of his medical career. He began his internship in 1949 and started working with the famous Professor Jean Gaston Cordier in 1951. ‘My Master Cordier’ as Christian used to call him had an immense influence on shaping his future. He defended his doctoral thesis successfully in 1955. Christian met and married an anaesthetist colleague Annick in 1955. Accompanied by Annick Cabrol, Christian went to Minnesota USA for a 2-year programme in 1956 to train under the famous American surgeon Walton Lillehei. Minnesota in the 1950s was the cradle of cardiac surgery under the auspices of two legendary friends John Lewis and Walton Lillehei. Starting with surface hypothermia and controlled cross circulation, this duo was revolutionizing cardiac surgery and later, with cardiopulmonary bypass. Interestingly, here Christian Cabrol met two other future transplant giants Christiaan Barnard and Norman Shumway as residency colleagues and developed friendships with them. Who would have known in 1956 that these three residents of Minnesota were going to shape transplant surgery of the whole world in the future! On his return to Paris, Christian was offered a position at Hôpital La Pitié Salpêtrière by his mentor Gaston Cordier, who was now the chief of surgery (1958). With his blessing Christian started a separate cardiac surgical unit within the framework of the General Surgery department. On 26 April 1961, the first mitral commissurotomy through a left thoracotomy was performed.6 The first atrial septal defect (ASD) closure was done on 26 July 1963 using surface hypothermia. In September of the same year, the first total correction of tetralogy of Fallot was performed. A few days later they implanted the first Starr-Edwards valve in the aortic position.6 Thereafter various types of cardiac surgery continued at Hôpital La Pitié Salpêtrière. Then finally on 27 April 1968, Christian Cabrol assisted by Dr Gerard Guiraudon and his team performed the first human heart transplantation of France and Europe1 (Figure 1). Cabrol and Guiraudon performed the procedure without informing Chief of the Department, Dr Maurice Mercadier who was out of the country. Cabrol described the incident later, at: http://sante.lefigaro.fr/actualite/2015/04/28/23657-avril-68-coulisses-premiere-greffe-cardiaque-france Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Cabrol explaining procedure to press. Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Cabrol explaining procedure to press. The first heart transplantation anywhere in the world has always been a media sensation. So was the case with Cabrol’s (Figure 2). This was the world’s 6th or 7th human heart transplant. However, the euphoria was transient, because the patient, Clovis Roblain, only survived 52 h. This was not unusual in the early days’ as transplant patients succumbed early, except for Barnard’s second patient. This was despite the remarkable progress in transplant research because immunosuppressant drugs were at bay. It was so frustrating that after the initial enthusiasm most surgeons discontinued transplanting and the number of cardiac transplants dropped from 100 in 1968 to a mere 18 in 1970. It was only the discovery of cyclosporine that changed the transplant scene with new hopes in the 1980s. At that time, despite poor outcomes, the real pioneers such as Christian Cabrol never gave up and found the energy to convince himself and his team that it was worth the efforts. Figure 2 View largeDownload slide Dr Christian Cabrol talking to the press after performing the first European heart transplantation. Christian Cabrol (front); Dr Annick Cabrol, Dr Maurice Mercadier and Dr Gerard Guiraudon (back (L) to (R)). Figure 2 View largeDownload slide Dr Christian Cabrol talking to the press after performing the first European heart transplantation. Christian Cabrol (front); Dr Annick Cabrol, Dr Maurice Mercadier and Dr Gerard Guiraudon (back (L) to (R)). Legacy In addition to the transplant triumph, Christian Cabrol made many other significant contributions in the development of cardiac surgery particularly in France. He continued with his efforts in various arenas of cardiac surgery at Hôpital La Pitié Salpêtrière (Figure 3). Figure 3 View largeDownload slide Christian Cabrol outside the cardiology institute at Hôpital La Pitié Salpêtrière 2012 (Photo credit: Courrier de l'Ouest). Figure 3 View largeDownload slide Christian Cabrol outside the cardiology institute at Hôpital La Pitié Salpêtrière 2012 (Photo credit: Courrier de l'Ouest). He invented a technique for managing an ascending aortic aneurysm (Cabrol method). He also developed a similar technique for proximal anastomosis in CABG.7 In 1982, he performed the first heart–lung transplant of Europe, and in 1986 he implanted the first artificial heart in Europe. His surgical activities continued until his retirement in 1990. The Department of Cardiac Surgery of Hôpital La Pitié Salpêtrière is now one of the largest such departments in Europe. This department established by Prof. Cabrol has given birth to some of the most famous French cardiac surgeons including Prof. Iradj Gandjbakhch, Prof. Gérard Guiraudon, Prof. Alain Pavie, Prof. Pascal Leprince, Dr Akhtar Ali Rama, and Dr Nicola Bonnet amongst others. Prof. Cabrol has also trained a number of leading foreign surgeons. The French postal service published a postage stamp and a first-day cover to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first heart transplantation in Europe by Prof. Christian Cabrol in 2012 (Figure 4). Figure 4 View largeDownload slide French postage stamp in 2012 commemorating 40th anniversary of first heart transplantation in Europe by Prof. Christian Cabrol. Figure 4 View largeDownload slide French postage stamp in 2012 commemorating 40th anniversary of first heart transplantation in Europe by Prof. Christian Cabrol. Beyond surgery Beyond the operating theatre, Cabrol lived a colourful life. His achievements gave him a celebrity status. He had divorced his first wife Annick, and in 1998 at the age of 73 he married a 59-year-old actress Bérengère Dautun. Prof. Cabrol joined politics and held several public positions. He was elected as regional councillor from arrondissemont 13 and 16 of Paris. He lost the parlimentary election in 1993, but was elected to the European Parliament for a period from 1994 to 1999.8 In 1989, he established Association for Innovation & Development in Cardiology (ADICARE) as the founding President and continued until 2015.9 This organization has contributed to the development of cardiac care since then. Although retired from surgery at age 65, Cabrol was quite active even towards his 10th decade. The corresponding author had the opportunity to meet this great surgeon while he was working as a World Heart Federation Twin Center Fellow at Hôpital La Pitié Salpêtrière during 2007–8. Prof. Cabrol used to visit the ADICARE Library and encourage the author to continue studies with his broad loud voice stating, ‘travaillez, continuez.’ meaning ‘Keep on working, carry on’. The last of the transplant pioneers The work of a few surgical giants has enabled the long-cherished dream of cardiac transplantation to materialize and become a reality. They were working in different parts of the World, in the USA, South Africa, India, France, Canada, Brazil, and elsewhere. Norman Shumway (1923–2006), Richard Lower (1929–2008), Christiaan Barnard (1922–2001), Adrian Kantrowitz (1918–2008), P. K. Sen (1915–82), Pierre Grondin of Canada (1925–2006), and Euriclydes de Jesus Zerbini of Brazil (1912–93) had all departed earlier. Cabrol was the last of these pioneer transplant giants alive, he took his final breath on 16 June 2017.10 On the eve of the golden jubilee celebration of the first heart transplantation of Europe, we pay our respect and gratitude to this great surgeon Prof. Christian Cabrol. Acknowledgements We acknowledge the help extended by the office of Professor Iradj Gandjbakhch, the present President of ADICARE for preparing this article. Conflict of interest: none declared. References References are available as supplementary material at European Heart Journal online. Published on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology. All rights reserved. © The Author 2018. For permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
European Heart Journal – Oxford University Press
Published: May 11, 2018
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