Papworth Heroes

Ben Milstein

Cardiothoracic Surgeon
Performed the first open-heart surgery at Papworth Hospital in 1958.

Ben Milstein was one of the pioneers of cardiac surgery joining Papworth Hospital in 1958.

Mr Milstein performed the first ever open-heart surgery at Papworth Hospital, on a woman who had an atrial septal defect, or hole in the heart, on his 40th birthday, in September 1958.

The pioneering surgery involved cooling the anaesthetised patient in a bath of icy water to slow the metabolism down and to stop the heart from beating temporarily so that it could clear itself of blood before the operation took place.

The operation was a success and the technique, which allowed the surgeon 10 minutes to complete the procedure, was to be used for many years. State-of-the-art heart-lung machines take over the functions of the organs at Papworth Hospital today.

Mr Milstein was instrumental in developing open-heart surgery at Papworth Hospital in the 1960s, and undoubtedly his work contributed greatly to the establishment of Papworth Hospital as one of the world's leading cardiac surgery centres.

A father figure at Papworth, he was known for his wise counsel and forthright attitude.

Mr Milstein was a strong advocate of good team work and believed that this inclusive approach involving every discipline contributed to the success of the Cardiothoracic Unit.