Museum logo
Museum logo

Object Record

Catalog Number 16.0004.017
Object Name Suture
Title Black String / Thread
Description Thick black thread wound around gauze. Used in surgery.
Accession number 16.0004
Caption Black String / Thread
Catalog date 2016-12-02
Catalog type History
Provenance Dr. Stanley Sarnoff (1918-1990) contributed greatly to our knowledge and understanding of those factors that control the work and the energy requirement of the heart. For example, he confirmed Starling's Law of the Heart: the strength of cardiac contraction becomes greater with increasing length or stretch of heart muscle fibers, prior to contraction. An inventor as well as a physician, he received more than 40 patents for inventions like the "auto-injector," which is the technology for the Epi-pen and self-administered treatment for antidotes to chemical warfare. Sarnoff also invented an EEG transmitter that worked over the telephone.

Sarnoff graduated from Princeton (1938), Johns Hopkins (M.D. 1942), and then became a professor at Harvard School of Public Health. He worked at NIH 1954-1965, establishing the NIH Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory, NHLBI. He trained many people who went on to important careers, including Dr. Eugene Braunwald. After Sarnoff left NIH, he started companies such as Survival Technology. His donation to Dartmouth in 1979 for a fellowship was the basis of the Howard Hughes/NIH Research Scholars program. In 1981, he created The Sarnoff Foundation.

At NIH, Sarnoff lead the work to discover carotido-atrial reflexes. From "Carotid Reflexes Control Vigor of Heart Action," NIH Record, May 10, 1960, p. 5: "These reflexes, called the carotido-sympatho-atrial and carotidovago-atrial reflexes, are held to be of substantial importance in the regulation of the circulation in changing states. They are particularly important at high heart rates, which give the ventricles less time to relax and the atria less time to fill them adequately between pumping strokes. By causing the atria to deliver more blood to the ventricles more rapidly under these conditions, these reflexes help to maintain the heart output at appropriate levels at high heart rates. The work leading to the discovery of the carotido-atrial reflexes was done by Drs. Stanley J. Sarnoff, J. P. Gilmore, and J. H. Mitchell. "

From "Heart Studies Win Gairdner Award for Dr. Sarnoff," NIH Record, November 6, 1962, p. 1: "By demonstrating the importance of the central nervous system in controlling the performance of the heart, Dr. Sarnoff has established physiological principles that have allowed physicians to better understand the action of the heart in normal and diseased states. His work has embraced many other subjects, including the mechanisms and treatment of acute lung congestion, experimental cardiac surgical techniques, and the mechanism of action of normal heart valve closure." Thus the amount of blood put out by the heart is not an indication of how much oxygen the heart requires.

The objects in this collection date from Sarnoff's last years at Harvard, and first years at NHLBI, when he developed the Apiaortic Conduit (AAC) surgery, now called the Aortic Valve Bypass (AVB) to relieve symptoms of left ventricle obstruction in the heart. He began practicing the experiment on dogs, one of whom lived with his family for many years after the operation. This surgical thread was used during the procedure.

From "The Surgical Relief of Aortic Stenosis by Means of Apical-Aortic Valvular Anastomosis," Stanley J. Sarnoff, Thomas J. Donovan, and Robert B. Case, with Philip E. Waithe, Circulation, Vol. XI, April 1955, pp. 564-575: "A means has been devised whereby the aortic valve can be effectively by-passed. Left ventricular blood leaves via the apex through a Lucite tube in continuity with a modified Hufnagel valve and then enters the thoracic aorta. In dogs so treated the ascending arch of the aorta may be totally and permanently occluded without apparent impairment of the circulation. Postoperatively these dogs run, jump and swim and are not readily distinguishable from normal dogs. The entire ventricular manipulation is completed in 30 to 60 seconds." He describes the operation in this article as: "The ventricular end of the tube...extends from the external surface of the apical myocardium well into the lumen of the ventricular cavity. Just distal to this segment there is a small ridge which rests on the epicardium and there is also a freely rotating spoked wheel. The latter is used to affix sutures to the myocardium, the pericardium or both. After the tube curves and leads the blood through a valve of the Hufnagel type, it leads to the wide-angled, Y-shaped [T-shaped] aortic end. One end of the Y tube conducts blood cephalad, the other caudad. ... Two grooves are present on each arm of the Y tube; a number 2 silk tie fixed the aorta in the proximal groove and a Hufnagel nylon, multiple point suspension ring fixes it in the distal groove." Work done at Harvard, before he came to NIH. Prosthesis made by Carl Hewson, Brunswick Mfg. Co.
Year Range from 1954
Year Range to 1965
Number of images 1
Updated 2016-12-20
Condition Good
Organizations Harvard University
NIH; NHI (National Heart Institute) (1948-1968)
NIH; NHLBI (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) (1976-present)
Buildings Building 10 ("CC" Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center)
Building 14
NIH Property # none
Old NIH Property # none
Serial # none
People Sarnoff, Stanley J.
Donovan, Thomas J.
Case, Robert B.
Waithe, Philip E.
Ness, Arthur T.
Stohlman, Fred