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Dr. George Magovern, 89, pioneer in artificial heart techniques

Updated: December 12, 2013 12:35PM

PITTSBURGH — Dr. George Magovern, a Pittsburgh cardiovascular surgeon who pioneered artificial heart valves, has died. He was 89.

Officials at Allegheny General Hospital, where Mr. Magovern introduced many of his cutting-edge techniques, say he died Monday.

The surgeon’s son, Dr. George Magovern Jr., says his father is recognized for heart surgery techniques in the same way that Jonas Salk is recognized for his work with the polio vaccine and Thomas Starzl with organ transplants. George Magovern Jr. is chief of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at Allegheny Health Network, which includes the hospital where his father did his work.

The elder Magovern is best known for co-inventing a sutureless heart valve, which was first used in 1962. The device reduced the time of such surgeries, increasing the odds that patients would survive.

Ronald V. Pellegrini, a cardiothoracic surgeon who trained under Dr. Magovern, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “He left a huge footprint . . . He built a program at Allegheny General Hospital that was not only the envy, but also was emulated by places across the country. Those guys at AGH were doing almost 2,000 open hearts a year and doing a tremendous amount of good work.

“They had the highest quality heart program at the time that was right up there with the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic — big numbers with excellent outcomes,” Pelligrini said.

The Post-Gazette said Mr. Magovern was born and educated in New York City.


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