The Matter of the Heart: A History of the Heart in Eleven Operations

Thomas Morris. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $26.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-250-11716-8
Morris, a British journalist and former TV producer, dissects 11 landmark heart operations in this extensive and well-constructed history of cardiac surgery. Throughout, he pays tribute to doctors with “talent and imagination, and a determination to do better for their patients.” Morris opens with an anecdote from a study that asked whether surgeons were psychopaths, finding them scoring high on “Machiavellian egocentricity.” “We’re all psychopaths,” one unnamed surgeon laughingly tells the author. But Morris finds much more than ego and showmanship as he surveys the field, encountering false starts, dead ends, interpersonal rivalries, and deception. Among the remarkable achievements Morris relates are the means to repair deadly congenital heart deformities; the invention of pacemakers, defibrillators, the heart-lung machine (which made open-heart surgery possible), and artificial-heart devices; the creation of heart bypass surgery, heart transplantation, and methods of stenting; and the development of radio-frequency ablation to cure arrhythmias. Covering more than a century of advancement, he notes that the breakthroughs were usually ones “nobody saw coming.” Morris’s expert guided tour of cardiac surgery and its quirky, brilliant innovators covers a dazzling and dizzying array of procedures and hints at tantalizing prospects for future surprises. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/27/2017
Release date: 01/16/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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