YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Thursday, June 11, marks 60 years since the first open-heart surgery was performed in the Valley.

Dr. Edmund Massullo performed the first open-heart surgery in the Valley in 1962 at St. Elizabeth Hospital. Dr. Lucas Henn, a heart surgeon with Mercy Health, says this transformed cardiovascular care in the Valley.

“Dr. Massullo in 1962 was really on the forefront of heart surgery – put this area on the map,” Henn said.

Massullo closed a hole in a patient’s heart. The surgery lasted over four hours. Henn said the invention of the heart-lung machine a decade before made the surgery possible.

“That allowed our blood to be circulated and oxygenated by something other than our bodies, and it allows the heart to be empty so that an operation could be done,” Henn said.

Henn added that things are a lot different today, issues like holes in the heart don’t always require open-heart surgery. Now, many procedures can be done with a catheter.

“Nobody is getting their chest open to have a hole fixed in their heart. They’re getting a needle stick and they’re going home the next day,” he said.

But the number of open heart surgeries has not gone down, Henn added. He says the risk for heart surgery has actually increased, on average, over the last 15 years. He said operations are more risky and complex and patients are sicker. However, those procedures are continuing to advance.

“People are living longer and because we’re getting better at heart surgery, we’re offering it to people who we may not have offered it to in the past,” he said.

Procedures and technologies today are some that health professionals in 1962 would never have dreamed of.

“We hadn’t been on the moon yet, and we’re stopping hearts in little kids and fixing them. That’s an absolutely amazing thing and a credit, a testament to our Dr. Massullo and his foresight and talent and vision to ring that to the Valley, and we stand on his shoulders,” Henn said.

Massullo also established the cardiac surgical and intensive care departments at St. Elizabeth Hospital.