Eugene Tison, 46, who underwent unique heart surgery here in 1977, died Friday at the Washington Hospital Center of complications following another operation.
In 1977, what doctors first thought was a heart attack was actually a "dissected artery," caused by a tear in the aorta, the main artery that supplies blood from the heart to the rest of the body.The tear then forced blood between the inner and outer layers of the aorta, separating them and causing blood to flow in two channels of the aorta instead of one.
Surgeons at the Washington Hospital Center attempted to clamp the aorta and repair it, but after removing the clamps they saw that portions of the aorta were too weakened to be repaired and that the clamps themselves were destroying portions of the artery.
In an attempt to save Mr. Tison's life, Drs. Luis Mispiretta and Jorge Garcia attempted radical new surgery that involved chilling Mr. Tison's body to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and draining it of his entire blood supply, while the doctors replaced a four-inch piece of damaged artery with a dacron tube.
Cooling the body to 60 degrees allows it to "live" for an hour without blood, as major body organs nearly cease to function at that temperature, thus need little blood.
The absence of blood circulating through the body enabled the physicians to complete the operation, believed to be the first such operation of its kind ever performed on an adult in the world.
However, dissected arteries are hereditary and there was no cure. Mr. Tison again underwent successful surgery in October 1977, then entered the Washington Hospital Center on May 17, undergoing three more operations before his death.
Mr. Tison came to Washington 23 years ago. He worked as a civilian communications operator with the Department of the Army before becoming a telecommunications supervisor with the Voice of America in 1974. He retired four years later for reasons of health.
He was a native of Blakely, Ga., and served with the Army in Germany in the mid-1950s before coming to Washington.
Mr. Tison was a member of the Lewinsville Presbyterian Church in McLean and had been active in the Mended Hearts Association.
Survivors included his wife, Kathleen M., and three daughters, Yvonne C., Pamela J., and Cynthia A., all of the home; his mother, Winnie Tison, of Blakely; a brother, Joseph D., of Atlanta, and two sister, Mable Heard, of Colquitt, Ga., and Betty Callier, of Dublin, Ga. CAPTION: Picture, EUGENE TISON