A Medical Device Daily

Michael DeBakey, MD, whose innovative heart and blood vessel operations made him one of the most influential doctors in the U.S., died Friday night in Houston, where he lived. He was 99.

DeBakey was a leader in developing mechanical devices to assist failing hearts. An early invention, the roller pump, devised while he was in medical school in the 1930s, became the central component of the heart-lung machine, which takes over the functions of the heart and lungs during surgery by supplying oxygenated blood to the brain. It helped inaugurate the era of open-heart surgery.

His pioneering surgical procedures in bypassing blocked arteries in the neck, legs and heart have been performed on millions of patients around the world. By the time he stopped a regular surgical schedule, when he was in his 80s, he had performed more than 60,000 operations.

One of DeBakey's innovations helped preserve his own life in 2006, when he underwent surgery to repair a torn aorta. He had devised the operation 50 years earlier. He spent months making what he called a miraculous recovery and then returned to an active schedule.

"Many consider Michael DeBakey to be the greatest surgeon ever, The Journal of the American Medical Association said in 2005.