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Experiencing the history of angioplasty

Andreas Grüntzig (1939–1985)

The 40 Years of Angioplasty Exposition, showcased during EuroPCR 2017, charted the conception, establishment, and potential future of interventional cardiology. Read more about the life & times of Andreas Gruentzig.

Honouring the father of angioplasty: Andreas Grüntzig (1939–1985)

Andreas Grüntzig

Andreas Grüntzig was a visionary years ahead of his time. A wall paying tribute to the life and achievements of the inventor of angioplasty is a key part of the 40 Years of Angioplasty Exposition. Born in Desden, Germany, in 1939, A. Grüntzig graduated from school in Leipzig in 1957. He then left for Heidleberg to join his brother just before the German Democratic Republic closed its borders. A. Gruntzig obtained his medical degree from Heidleberg in 1964 and completed several internships, notably at Darmstadt’s Max Ratschow Klinik, where he performed his first peripheral artery angiographies.

In 1969, he relocated to Zurich, and was introduced to the Dotter technique (catheter-based dilation of peripheral arterial stenosis). Soon after, his idea of a balloon catheter was born. It took A. Grüntzig two years to create his hand-made functional balloon catheter.

In February 1974 he performed his first peripheral angioplasty using his balloon. In March, he performed the first balloon angioplasty of an iliac artery stenosis. He published his new balloon concept and findings from his first 15 patients, and the technique became known as “percutaneous transluminal angioplasty”.

A. Grüntzig’s research included 16 canine coronary angioplasties. A poster on this was presented at the 1976 AHA meeting in Miami, after which Richard Myler invited him to San Francisco to perform intraoperative dilatations. Four dilatations were performed there in May 1977, proving the balloon’s efficacy and safety.

On 16 September 1977, A. Grüntzig made history, becoming the first person to perform percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty. Very quickly, A. Grüntzig was beset by cardiologists keen to learn his techniques. He organised television transmissions and live demonstration courses in response, with four courses held in Zurich from 1978–1980.

Following advice from Spencer B. King, A. Grüntzig soon took up a position at Emory University in Atlanta, USA. His first annual course was held in Atlanta in February 1981, bringing more than 200 cardiologists to the city.

A. Grüntzig’s life came to a tragic end on 27 October 1985. He was killed when his private airplane crashed near Atlanta due to unfavourable weather conditions.