50 Years Ago

Balloon Clears Arteries

Excerpt from the June 29, 1963, issue of Science News Letter

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A tiny balloon inserted into dangerously clogged arteries at the tip end of a long tube is saving lives by sweeping away the blood clots. A 29-year-old resident in surgery invented the device…. It has been used on 22 patients at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati. Dr. Thomas J. Fogarty, now at the University of Oregon Medical School, originated the new … balloon-catheter technique….  A small incision is made either in the groin or other location nearest the clot, and the tube is inserted as far as it will go. The balloon inflates and is filled with blood, carrying the clot or clots with it when it is withdrawn.


UPDATE: The balloon catheter became the standard of care for blocked coronary arteries and paved the way for angioplasty and stents. Balloons are also now used to clear sinuses, urinary tracts and more. As for inventor Thomas Fogarty, today he heads a research institute in California and holds 135 surgical patents.

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