Sir Brian Gerald Barratt-Boyes

Sir Brian Gerald Barratt-Boyes, KBE (13 January 1924 – 8 March 2006) was a pioneering heart surgeon from New Zealand.

Barratt-Boyes went to Victoria University before study medicine at Otago’s Medical School, graduating in 1946. He continued his training as a surgeon, initially in New Zealand, and later at the Mayo Clinic (1953-5) and as a Nuffield Fellow in Bristol (1955-6). At Mayo he worked under John W. Kirklin, the two developing a high mutual regard that endured and grew over the years.

In 1956 he was recruited back to Auckland, New Zealand by Sir Douglas Robb, and pioneered the development of cardiopulmonary bypass in that country, the first patient being operated on in 1958. While this task must have been made more difficult by New Zealand’s relative remoteness and small population, the Greenlane Hospital surgical team quickly achieved an international reputation for innovative excellence. Indeed he suggested that Auckland’s isolation conferred an advantage comparable to that enjoyed by the Mayo Clinic in small-town Rochester, Minnesota, making it less likely that day-to-day interruptions would interfere with the real purpose of their work. Much of the original equipment had to be fashioned or modified locally. Sid Yarrow, an engineer on the team, built an early external pacemaker for intra-operative use. The first permanent unit, from Medtronic, was implanted in 1961.

In 1962 he introduced, independently but simultaneously with Donald Ross in London, the human cadaveric aortic homograft for aortic valve replacement and for many years he worked to perfect valve preparation, emphasizing its inherent physiologic advantages and simplifying its surgical implant technique. He and his team’s results became the standard for others to match.In 1969 he brought the technique of profound hypothermia and circulatory arrest into the limelight as a practical method for dealing with major corrective surgery in neonates with congenital heart disease, in so doing further establishing Greenlane Hospital on the international stage. In recognition of these and other achievements he was knighted in 1971 further confirming a national prominence comparable to that achieved by René Favaloro in Argentina and Christiaan Barnard in South Africa. Sir Brian Barratt-Boyes showcased the Greenlane experience at many international meetings as well as in workshops he hosted in Auckland. The 1987 Asian Pacific Congress was a particular success for him for the size of the international contingent it drew and the bright spotlight it shone on Greenlane’s history of achievement. In 1985 he and John Kirklin published their authoritative text Cardiac Surgery, a colossal achievement of more than 1,500 pages that quickly became the standard reference for the sub-specialty.