“There is no one more deserving of recognition for their global contributions to alleviating patient suffering than Dr. O. H. Frazier. For half a century, he has extended the life of patients around the world with heart failure and other serious cardiovascular conditions, and we are very proud of his accomplishments.”
– Dr. James T. Willerson, President Emeritus
In his more than 40 years at the Texas Medical Center, Dr. O. H. Frazier has led the Texas Heart Institute (THI) to become a world leader in the field of mechanical circulatory support innovation. Through global partnerships with his esteemed colleagues and an unwavering dedication to developing solutions to improve the lives of suffering patients, he has extended the life of people around the world with heart failure and other serious cardiovascular conditions for nearly half a century.
In April, Dr. O. H. Frazier was honored as the 2018 recipient of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation (ISHLT) Lifetime Achievement Award at the society’s 38th Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions in Nice, France. This award is reserved for those whose lifetime body of work has contributed significantly to improving the care of patients with advanced heart or lung disease, and Dr. Frazier is one of only seven recipients of this highly prestigious award in the ISHLT’s 38-year history.
Dr. Frazier is widely regarded as a pioneer in the treatment of severe heart failure, and in the fields of heart transplantation and the development of mechanical heart-assist devices. With a career spanning more than four decades, he has performed over 1,300 heart transplants and implanted more than 1,000 left ventricular assist devices—more than any other surgeon in the world.
Dr. Frazier first became interested in mechanical circulatory support in 1963 as a first-year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine, when he wrote a research paper about the experimental total artificial heart. After finishing medical school and a surgical internship, and then serving for 2 years in Vietnam as a combat flight surgeon, he completed his general surgery residency under Dr. Michael E. DeBakey. Dr. Frazier then did his cardiac training at THI under its founder, Dr. Denton A. Cooley, so that he could continue pursuing heart-assist device research.
Although the heart transplantation program at THI was revolutionary, many of the patients were too weak to wait for a viable heart transplant. In an effort to help patients survive until heart transplantation was an option, through the 1970s and 1980s, Dr. Frazier explored developing an implantable left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to aid the failing heart. In 1980, he implanted the first LVAD, and in 1988, he implanted the first continuous-flow LVAD, called the Hemopump. In 2000, Dr. Frazier implanted the first Jarvik continuous-flow LVAD, and in 2003, he implanted the first HeartMate II, a device that has since become the most widely used implantable LVAD in the world.
Conventional approaches to the development of an artificial heart attempted to mimic the beating of a normal human heart. But these designs were too large for many patients, and their mechanical components were subjected to substantial wear and tear. In 2011, Dr. Frazier implanted two second-generation HeartMate II LVADs to totally replace a patient’s failing heart. This dual-pump device was the first successful continuous-flow total artificial heart—a heart without a heartbeat.
Now, as a professor of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, Director of the Cullen Cardiovascular Research Laboratory and Co-Director of the Center for Preclinical Surgical and Interventional Research at THI, Dr. Frazier continues to pursue new innovations in mechanical circulatory support and patient care.
THI is honored to have such a successful, world-renowned medical professional and leader as a part of the team working to unveil the next first in cardiovascular discovery.
A History of Firsts in Mechanical Circulatory Support
1974 Dr. Frazier’s arrives to St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital
1976 First-in-world intra-abdominal left ventricular assist device (LVAD) | Drs. Jack Norman & Dr. OH Frazier
1978 First heart-kidney transplant | Drs. Denton A. Cooley, Frazier & Dr. Barry Kahan
1978 First in world bridge to transplant with LVAD |Drs. Cooley, & Frazier
1978 First in world heart-kidney transplant |Drs. Cooley, Frazier & Kahan
1982 First heart transplant with cyclosporine | Stanford, Columbia, Pittsburgh and Texas Heart Institute
1985 Development of the Abiocor artificial heart | Dr. Frazier
1985 NHLBI funds proposed project to develop permanent artificial heart | Dr. Frazier
1986 First implantation of pneumatic Thermo Cardiosystems Inc. (TCI) LVAD (first LVAD approved by FDA) | Dr. Frazier
1986 First in world implantation of pneumatic TCI LVAD (first approved by FDA) | Dr. Frazier
1986 Development with Dr. Robert Jarvik of blood-washed (non-lubricated) bearing for long-term, implantable continuous-flow (pulseless) LVAD; basis for development of entire field of continuous-flow LVADs (over 30,000 implanted worldwide) | Dr. Frazier
1988 First implantation of intracorporeal continuous-flow LVAD | Dr. Frazier
1991 First-in-world implantation of electrically powered LVAD (also TCI) | Dr. Frazier
1993 First patient to be discharged from hospital with LVAD | Dr. Frazier
1994 First centrifugal LVAD developed (now known as the HeartWare HVAD) | Dr. Frazier
2000 First ever continuous-flow pump (Jarvik 2000) implanted in a human being | Dr. Frazier
2000 First-in-world implantation of continuous-flow LVAD (Jarvik) as destination therapy (in Oxford, England) | Dr. Westaby, Dr. Frazier, Dr. Igor Gregoric
2001 Implantation of AbioCor artificial heart | Dr. Frazier
2003 First device approved as destination therapy.
2003 First in world implantation of Heartmate II LVAD Dr. Frazier (also developed in THI research lab). Now the world’s most widely used device. | Dr. Frazier
2005 Demonstration, in large preclinical model, of feasibility of total heart replacement with continuous-flow LVAD | Dr. Frazier
2006 Six million-dollar NIH grant for development of implantable continuous-flow LVAD for total heart replacement; Dr. Frazier served as Principal investigator | Dr. Frazier
2011 First-in-world implantation of total heart replacement with 2 continuous-flow LVADs in a human | Dr. Frazier
2014 Implantation of single continuous-flow LVAD as total heart replacement in large preclinical model | Dr. Cohn & Dr. Frazier
The Next First in Cardiovascular Discovery
Dr. Frazier believes that the first meaningful total heart replacement with a continuous-flow device in a human being is in sight. The LVAD that appears to be most promising for adaptation to a total artificial heart has now supported some patients for more than 9 years, and durability testing suggests that this device could continue to operate for up to 20 years.
In addition, Dr. Frazier is deep into the development and testing of a new, minimally invasive LVAD that can be placed in a patient in the cath lab, eliminating the need for open heart surgery. The hope is to ultimately develop a device that slows the progression of heart failure and thus reduces the number of patients who need a heart transplant.