Ake Senning (1915-2000)
Prof. Ake Senning was one of the world’s foremost pioneers in cardiac surgery. His ‘firsts’ included performing a corrective operation for patients with transposition of the great arteries in 1956 (the “Senning operation”) and implanting the first cardiac pacemaker in 1958. Later that same year, Dr. Senning also introduced autogenous fascia lata trileaflet valves for the replacement of diseased human aortic valves He was the first to use elective fibrillation in heart surgery. Early in his career, he helped develop one of the first pump oxygenators for cardiopulmonary bypass.
Ake received his medical degree from Uppsala University in Stockholm. In 1961, he left the University Thoracic Clinic of the Karolinska Hospital to move to Zurich as Professor of Surgery and Director of the Surgical Clinic. He and his team performed the first heart transplant in Switzerland in 1969. It was there that Ake Senning met Andreas Grüntzig and they became friends. Dr. Senning encouraged Andreas Grüntzig to go ahead and perform his first coronary angioplasty promising that “he would be there, should anything go wrong”. Ultimately, he would contribute significantly with Hans Wallsten to the introduction of coronary stents.