Trivia: When Was The World’s First Successful Mitral Valve Repair?

By Adam Pick on January 31, 2010

Are you ready for some very interesting heart valve surgery trivia?

The question for today is, “When was the first successful mitral valve repair surgery?”

Your multiple choice answers are:

A. 1935
B. 1948
C. 1955
D. 1968
E. 1971

Scroll down below the mitral valve repair diagram for the answer.


Commissurotomy Diagram For Mitral Valve Repair


According to G. Wayne Miller, in King Of Hearts: The True Story Of The Man Who Pioneered Open Heart Surgery, the first successful mitral valve repair surgery, a commissurotomy, was performed on June 10, 1948.

So, the answer to our trivia question is B.

If you are curious… The surgery was performed by Dr. Charles P. Bailey at Episcopal Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was Dr. Bailey’s fifth attempt at a mitral valve repair surgery.

The patient, Claire Ward, was a twenty-four year old housewife who, as a child, had suffered from rheumatic fever, an infection that can damage the mitral valve. Mrs. Ward had lived with a heart murmur until, as an adult, her health began to fail. By the time Dr. Bailey saw her, Claire could not care for her children, she could not draw a good breath and medication did nothing to help.


Dr. Charles Bailey - First Successful Mitral Valve Surgeon
Dr. Charles P. Bailey (1910-1993)


Interestingly, Mrs. Ward’s primary physician advised her to NOT have the operation. However, Dr. Bailey treated her mitral stenosis with a hooked knife that widened her valve – known as commissurotomy. Doctor Bailey also used his finger (yes, his finger) to further open the valve.

“How did she do after mitral valve surgery?” you might be wondering.

Claire Ward had two more children and lived for 38 more years after her mitral valve repair operation. 🙂

Keep on tickin!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Jean says on May 24th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

For some unknown reason, I decided to look for my heart surgeon, Dr. Charles P Bailey. I had no idea if he was live or dead and came across is obituary, and many times in my life I think about him and how i would love to contact him. but not know where he was; till today. I was saddened to learn that he passed away in 1993, when previous searches only yielded me his “Time” cover in 1957. This man saved my life. I was born and left for dead, but this man saved me. It has been a hard life, but a good one. and I had always hoped I could thank him. It wasn’t until I became pregnant with my first son and developed a murmur, that I learned he had even named the procedure after me. God bless him.

Rob says on November 28th, 2012 at 4:51 pm

My dad was one of Dr Bailey’s first patients; either 1948 or 1949. Somewhere I have a copy of the Hospital paperwork.. It is handwritten, the room charge was $11/day at Hahnemann Hospital. My dad went on to have either 2 or 3 Mitral valve replacements and lived until 1996 (did not die from valve, but multiple complications due to the valve issues-one is that he got Hep C from a transfusion during operation). My dad went to Dr Bailey’s funeral in 1993 and if I remember correct, he spoke to Mrs Bailey. I remember Dad saying he had to lie to my Grandmother about the operation, he told her he was getting a hernia operation. Dad said Dr. Bailey used his finger to massage the valve open. I would not be alive without Dr. Bailey; there is no way Dad would have lived long without the surgery.

Karen Pomer says on May 21st, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Thank-you Dr. Bailey for saving so many lives. Another interesting question would be when will the last mitral-valve surgery be performed? The way medical advances are headed, I believe in less then a decade all mitral-valve repairs will be done by cardiac interventionists, not surgeons. In the near future, could be all mitral-valve patients with severe regurgitation will have access to minimally invasive procedures, and will head home from hospital the next day zipperless. Wouldn’t that be a GREAT improvement?

Pam Cunningham says on May 21st, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Thank you for your book and web site…..I a nurse (a cardiac nurse!) but this is ME I am probably having Mitral valve surgery on June …..going to Cleveland Clinic …..your book was great (I’m not used to being the patient ) your email was good timing…..God bless . Pam Cunningham in Selma Alabama

Diane MacDonald says on May 21st, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Thank you so much Adam. I cannot believe how helpful your book and newsletters are. You are doing a lot of good. Congratulations. It is over 2 years since my successful mitral valve repair performed by the wonderful Dr Bruce Garlick in Brisbane, Australia. The history lesson and comments on the first procedure was interesting. Thanks.

Jack H M Kwaan, MD,F.A.C.S. says on June 22nd, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Dr. Bailey was an innovative surgeon and was repairing stenosed (narrowed) mitral valve before the open heart machine became available thus saving many lives afflicted with valve disease. I had the good fortune to assist Dr. Bailey as an intern, and he had allowed me to place my finger through a purse string suture around the atrial appendage to examine the diseased mitral valve. It was certainly an eye opening experience for me. Aside from using the finger fracture technic, Dr. Bailey also designed a Bailey knife – sort of sliding blade to effect the opening of the diseased mitral valve.
I also well remembered his contemporary, Dwight Harken at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (Harvard) made the jealous remark that Time made a “monumental error” for placing Bailey(perhaps not himself)on the front page of Time magazine. Dr. Bailey is still a true surgical hero to me at another time and another place.

Scott Andrews says on June 23rd, 2015 at 4:35 pm

My father, John Andrews, had this procedure performed at Deborah in the first half of 1960. Unfortunately, his heart was already seriously damaged, so the procedure had no lasting effect. He passed away in February, 1961, a few month shy of his 26th birthday.

Marie Walker says on September 21st, 2015 at 10:00 am

I’m a former patient of Dr. Bailey’s. He performed open heart surgery om me in June, 1966 in St. Barnabas hospital, Bronx, NY..his words to me on the eve of the surgery were: “we’ re goning to maje a new woman out of you”. My only recollection is that valve was replaced and two holes were repaired. I’ve since married and had 2 children. They are 38 and 40 years old. Now I’m in need of some additional heart treatmen. I met a surgeon who is actually questioning whether I had the procedure done at that facility.. Many physicans who examine me are amazed that I am alive and still kicking ( just a little slowly :).

Marie Walker

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