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Heart and Vascular

Celebrating 60 Years of Open-Heart Surgery in Mahoning Valley

Jun 13 2022

On June 11, 1962, Edmund Massullo, MD, performed the first open-heart surgery in the Mahoning Valley area, closing a hole in the heart of a young patient. The operation lasted more than four hours and required the patient to be on a relatively new and revolutionary artificial heart-lung machine during part of the procedure.

Sixty years later, our team at Mercy Health – St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital continues to celebrate this accomplishment and pivotal moment in medical history in Northeastern Ohio.

Dr. Massullo, who served as chief of surgery at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital for 10 years, established the cardiac surgical and intensive care departments and also launched the transformative cardiac care in the Mahoning Valley we know today.

“When looking back to the 1960s, it is astonishing that Dr. Massullo performed this operation considering the technology available at the time,” Lucas Henn, MD, (pictured above) cardiothoracic surgery specialist and medical director of cardiothoracic surgery at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, shares. “Since then, heart care in the Mahoning Valley, and worldwide has expanded rapidly, causing mortality rates to reduce and outcomes to improve, even in the last 15 years.”

Dr. Henn continues, “our ministry has been at the forefront of cardiac care over the last 60 years, and we are proud to continue providing the highest quality care to our patients and their hearts.”

There have obviously been many technological advancements made since Dr. Massullo’s first open-heart surgery. These include instruments used during cardiothoracic operations, such as a transcatheter, which enable surgeries to be accomplished through minimally invasive procedures and help patients have shorter hospital stays.  

Since 1962, we have also grown our team of board-certified heart and vascular surgeons, as well as cardiologists, who work together to determine the best personalized approach for heart care and surgery. This growth includes the additions of our Heart and Vascular Institutes, which offer preventive cardiac care, rehabilitation, nutrition services and education about how to stay healthy and prevent further complications. 

“Being one of the early adopters in the nation for cardiology and heart surgery, it is no surprise that Dr. Massullo laid the groundwork for the last 60 years,” Dr. Henn says. “As someone who has devoted his life to cardiothoracic surgery, I find the history of this field is remarkable. It is humbling for our entire team to follow in Dr. Massullo’s footsteps and expound on his legacy of excellence and innovation.”

To mark the success of Dr. Massullo’s first open-heart surgery in the region, the family waiting area in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital is dedicated in the physician’s honor.

Learn more about the heart and vascular services we provide at Mercy Health.

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