Innovative American surgeon (1912-2004) who helped perform the first successful open heart operation. On Sept. 2, 1952 at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Varco’s team, led by Dr. C. Walton Lillehei and Dr. F. John Lewis, cut off the flow of blood to the heart after lowering the patient’s body temperature to protect her brain. Wrapped in a cold rubber blanket, the patient, a 5-year-old girl, was anesthetized to reduce her shivering. With a window of 10 minutes to operate, the team quickly stitched a small hole between her upper chambers. She was rewarmed, and survived.
In 1953, Dr. Varco performed the world’s first obesity operation. The procedure, an intestinal bypass, evolved into today’s gastric bypass. It was designed to help patients lose weight by limiting the amount of calories they could absorb, unlike gastric bypass, which reduces food intake.
With Dr. Henry Buchwald, two mechanical engineers and a physiologist, Dr. Varco also created the world’s first implantable drug-infusion pump in the 1960s. A similar device today delivers insulin to diabetics, pain medication to the spinal cord and anti-clotting medicines to the bloodstream.
- Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Abbreviated vCJD. A human disease thought due to the same infectious agent as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. Both the human and bovine disorders are invariably fatal brain diseases with unusually long incubation periods measured in years, and are caused by an unconventional transmissible agent, a prion, resulting in the deposition of […]
- Variant angina
Chest pain due to coronary artery spasm, a sudden constriction of a coronary artery (one of the vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood rich in oxygen) depriving the heart muscle (myocardium) of blood and oxygen. This is also called Prinzmetal angina. Coronary artery spasm can be triggered by emotional stress, medicines, street drugs […]
- Variation, observer
Failure by the observer to measure accurately, resulting in error. Observer variation may be due to the observer’s missing a measurement, making an incorrect measurement, or misinterpreting data. Inter-observer variation is the amount of variation between the results obtained by two or more observers examining the same material. Intra-observer variation is the amount of variation […]
- Varicella (chickenpox)
A highly infectious viral disease, known familiarly as chickenpox. (In many countries, this disease is always called “varicella.”) Chickenpox has nothing at all to do with chicken. The name was meant to distinguish this “weak” form of the pox from smallpox. “Chicken” is used here, as in “chickenhearted,” to mean weak or timid. The “pox” […]
- Varicella immunization
See Chickenpox immunization.