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A history of heart surgery at Guy's and St Thomas'


Russell (later Lord) Brock (centre right, wearing glasses) with the cardiac surgery team 1952After the second world war, thoracic surgeon Mr Russell Brock formed the Peacock club. This club was dedicated to the treatment of 'blue babies' (babies born with low levels of oxygen in the blood due to heart defects). 

Mr Brock was a world leader in pioneering heart surgery and developed operations for narrowed valves. He was knighted in 1952 and became president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 

Dr Alfred Blalock (front centre) of Johns Hopkins Medical School, at Guy’s in 1947In 1947, Dr Alfred Blalock performed his pioneering operation, Blalock-Taussig Shunt, at Guy's. This was the first time the operation had been performed outside the USA, making Guy’s the birthplace of European heart surgery.

In 1958, heart surgeon Mr Donald Ross joined Guy's, taking heart surgery to new heights:

  • In 1960 he performed the first total correction of Tetralogy of Fallot in a child less less than one year old.
  • In 1962 he performed the world’s first replacement of the aortic valve using a donor human heart valve.
  • In 1966 he used a homograft valve to correct a condition known as pulmonary atresia where there is no connection between the heart and the lung arteries.
  • In 1967 he performed the operation that now bears his name, known as Ross Operation, where the patient’s healthy pulmonary valve is transferred to replace a diseased aortic valve using a homograft to replace the pulmonary valve.
  • In 1968 Ross performed the UK's first heart transplant.

All of these operations are still in use today.

Looking ahead

While much has been achieved at our hospitals over the past 65 years, there is still a lot we can do. Survival rates have improved such that today 85% of people with congenital heart disease will reach adolescence. There are now more adults with operated heart defects than children in the UK. Our team is dedicated to providing high quality specialist heart care, enabling our patients to enjoy good quality of life.

Photograph credits: King's College London