Purpose: There have been great improvements in the management of patients with heart disease over the past 50 yr much of which has been due to the development of surgical procedures for the correction of acquired and congenital cardiac abnormalities. A great deal has been written about the surgeons and the innovative procedures they developed. They were undoubtedly courageous, imaginative, knowledgeable and skillful. Little is written about the anaesthetists who often worked in the laboratory with the surgeons and provided anaesthesia for patients having this surgery which, in the early days, was experimental. The purpose of this article is to present the contributions made by Canadian anaesthetists to the evolution of cardiac surgery.
Principal findings: The contributions have been important over five clearly discernable eras and have been identified through publications. Canadian anaesthetists wrote about their experience giving anaesthesia for mitral commissurotomy, relief of pulmonic stenosis, ligation of patent ductus arteriosus, resection of aortic coarctation, correction of simple congenital heart defects under hypothermia and myocardial revascularization. When open heart surgery was introduced, Canadian anaesthetists working both in the United States and Canada were amongst the first to publish on surgery supported by cardiopulmonary bypass and anaesthesia for these procedures.
Conclusion: An analysis of the literature and personal, verbal and written communications with anaesthetists who experienced the trials and tribulations of anaesthesia for these early surgical procedures clearly indicates that Canadians were at the forefront in advancing anaesthesia for cardiac surgery.