Manjit Kumar

The Beat Goes On

The Matter of the Heart: A History of the Heart in Eleven Operations


The Bodley Head 414pp £20 order from our bookshop

In April 2013, I underwent one the most successful and routinely performed operations in surgical history: a coronary artery bypass graft. I call it a triple heart bypass, but in medical jargon it’s known as a CABG, pronounced ‘cabbage’.

In researching this fascinating and compelling book on the history of heart surgery, the journalist Thomas Morris was allowed into the operating theatre to watch a surgeon perform a bypass. He describes how the surgeon picked up a pair of scissors and, in one smooth motion, severed the aorta, the artery that carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Morris was ‘taken aback by the insouciance with which she had cut the heart loose from its moorings’.

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