Almost two decades ago, interventional cardiology pioneer Dr. Spencer B. King III penned an article for Circulation titled, “Angioplasty From Bench to Bedside to Bench.” Dr. King’s article was a recounting of the history of the development of the angioplasty balloon catheter by his colleague at Emory University, Andreas Gruentzig.
This morning, the title of his article took on new meaning, as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg entered the courtroom and took her seat, engaging in several complex legal arguments concerning mortgage loan officers, Facebook threats, and more.
Less than a week ago, 81-year-old Ginsburg was taken to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, after experiencing chest pain during a workout. Got that? A workout. She was taken to the catheterization laboratory where a blockage in her right coronary artery was found…and opened with a stent. Amazingly, she was discharged only 24 hours later. And now, five days later, Justice Ginsburg was, literally, back on the bench!
Before the invention of coronary angioplasty (1977) and stents (1983), people in Justice Ginsburg’s situation would either have been told to rest, take some pills, and scale back their activity, possibly retire — or maybe have coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery to open the blockage, an open heart operation that would take months to recover from — surgery which might not be possible for someone of advanced age. I remember walking up and down the street I grew up on, seeing the fathers of kids I knew, sitting on their benches, on their porches, or in rocking chairs, staring off into the distance, side-lined by heart disease.
But it’s 2014 and the treatment of coronary artery disease is very very different from what it used to be.
So kudos are in order for the excellent team at Medstar Washington Hospital Center, for Justice Ginsburg, and for the many pioneers of interventional cardiology who revolutionized this field.
Please stand as the judges enter the courtroom!