DETROIT — Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz, a cardiac surgeon who performed the nation’s first human heart transplant and who also developed lifesaving medical implants, has died. He was 90.
Kantrowitz died Friday in Ann Arbor of complications from heart failure, said his wife, Jean Kantrowitz.
In 1967, Kantrowitz performed the first human heart transplant in the United States, three days after the world’s first was performed in South Africa.
But the transplant, on an infant who died several hours later, was only a small part of his life’s work to solve the problem of heart failure, his wife said.
Adrian Kantrowitz invented and for decades continued to improve the left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, which would later lend its name to his Detroit-based research company, L-VAD Technology Inc.
The device is designed to be permanently implanted in patients with otherwise-terminal heart failure, helping their hearts circulate blood and allowing them to leave the hospital.
Kantrowitz also invented other lifesaving cardiac devices, including the intra-aortic balloon pump.
He never retired, and “he never lost his mental alertness,” said Jean Kantrowitz. He was an avid pilot, motorcyclist and sailor.
Adrian Kantrowitz was born Oct. 4, 1918, in New York City and attended New York University and the Long Island College of Medicine, now part of the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center.
After serving in the Army Medical Corps during World War II, Kantrowitz entered the emerging field of cardiac surgery. He practiced and conducted research in the 1950s and ’60s at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center.
In 1970, Kantrowitz moved his federal funding and entire team of residents and other staff to Sinai Hospital in Detroit to better accommodate his research. Sinai Hospital later merged with another hospital and is now known as Sinai-Grace Hospital.
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