MACHINES FOR HEART SURGERY: GIBBON’S OXYGENATOR

Posted on July 30th, 2011, by admin

Gibbon’s extra-corporeal oxygenator consisted of two pumps, one pushing blood through the artificial lung, the other through the body’s arteries. The oxygenator (also known as the film oxygenator) was an arrangement of stainless steel layers which made up a large surface area over which oxygen was blown. The blood was pumped over these screens, where it could pick up oxygen to transport to the arteries while releasing carbon dioxide – its main waste product – at the same time. Once in the arteries the pumped blood had, of course, to flow freely but without being squeezed, which would have damaged the structure of the blood cells, while in the machine there was the added problem of blood sticking to the various pipes and junctions and clogging up the smooth mechanism. Gibbon managed to resolve these difficulties in the laboratory and in 1954 used his machine to aid him in an operation on an 18-year-old girl suffering from an atrial septal defect. She was connected up to it for 45 minutes, for 25 of which the mechanical device completely took over the function of the heart. Open-heart surgery with the heart-lung machine had taken its fin decisive step.At the same time as artificial extra-corporeal cardiorespiratory systems were in their infancy, another time-seeking technique was being developed. Instead of passing the blood of the patient through a machine, why not use another human circulatory system – a biological life-support method that avoided all the problems associated with man-made pumps, valves, pipes and tubes? Animal experiments by Anthony Anderson in the UK had demonstrated that such a cross-circulation arrangement could work: the functioning of one animal’s heart and lungs could temporarily be taken over by second animal, then restored, without harming either borrower or lender. *12/353/5*

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