October 8 in Swedish History
1958: Swedish cardiac surgeon Ake Senning (1915-2000) implants the first human, implanted cardiac pacemaker. The operation takes place at Karolinska hospital, and the patient’s name is Arne Larsson. Although the device lasts only a few hours, it proves the feasibility of the procedure and opens the way to a new field in the area of device therapy.
Senning was born in Rättvik, and was influenced to become a cardiovascular surgeon when during his training, he heard of Clarence Crafoord's operations to repair coarctation of the aorta. He trained under Crafoord from 1948 to 1956 at Sabbatsberg Hospital, where he and the doctor-turned-engineer Rune Elmqvist developed the first completely implantable pacemaker.
From 1956, Senning led the Department of Experimental Surgery at the Karolinska Hospital. In 1957 Senning performed the first repair of a common congenital heart malformation called transposition of the great arteries or TGA. In 1961, Senning became head of the Department of Surgery at the University of Zürich and in 1969 he performed his first heart transplant in Switzerland, just over a year after the much publicized first transplant by Christiaan Barnard in South Africa. Today, 3,500 heart transplants are performed annually.
Åke Senning retired in 1985 and died in 2000 at the age of 84.