In 1902 the first open heart surgery was performed in Montgomery by Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill

Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill
Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill

Did you know….?

In 1902, Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill performed the first open heart surgery in the Western Hemisphere by suturing a stab wound in a young boy’s heart. The surgery occurred in Montgomery.

“In the early morning hours of September 15, 1902, Hill was summoned by two local Montgomery physicians who were attempting to treat Henry Myrick, a 13-year-old African American youth, who had been the victim of a stab wound to the heart the previous afternoon.

Six hours passed before the first physicians had been called, and another two hours passed before Hill arrived at the boy’s home. Myrick’s wound had been bleeding continuously, and although he was still conscious, his pulse was fading. Hill convinced the family to let him operate on the wound.Dr. hill historic marker

Although he was widely regarded as an authority on heart wounds, Hill had not actually operated on a living heart. Hill moved Myrick to a table and by lantern light began the procedure, assisted by his brother and a fourth physician who had arrived to administer chloroform to the patient.

Hill opened the youth’s chest and discovered a great deal of internal bleeding within the pericardium, the protective tissue surrounding the heart. To relieve pressure on the injured organ, Hill opened the pericardial sack to drain the blood.

He then stitched the stab wound, which was in the left ventricle of Myrick’s heart, with catgut thread. The entire procedure lasted 45 minutes.

Myrick survived and within a few weeks had recovered from his injuries. With this procedure, Hill became the first American physician to successfully repair a wounded heart in a surgery that the patient survived.”

Location of Hill Infirmary, Montgomery, AL
Location of Hill Infirmary, Montgomery, AL
Hlll seated on left
Hlll seated on left


1.Encyclopedia of  Alabama



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  1. Is Dr. Luther Hill the father of the late Alabama Rep. Lister Hill?

    1. Yes he was the father of Lister Hill.

  2. We have a lot of heritage and history to be proud of in our state!!

  3. All the more impressive as the heart-lung machine wasn’t perfected until 51 years later.

  4. Shows that not all crazy things go on there in that town

  5. This is absolute false; a black man, Dr. Nathaniel Hale Williams performed the first open heart surgery in 1893

    1. If you read the article you posted, he repaired the pericardium, the sac the heart is contained in. He did not actually operate on the heart. The called it the first cardiac operation, not the first heart surgery. But if race matters to you, the 13 year old patient who was the first one to survive heart surgery was African American.

  6. Both of these surgeons did great things! Both surgeries involved injuries but they were different injuries, so they both were the first to do the specific procedure they are credited with. The Alabama doctor actually repaired the heart muscle and the pericardium (the sac around the heart ) the other physician repaired the pericardium only. However, both were very good physicians and advanced medicine a great deal. The Huffington Post article was fascinating and I am proud of all he accomplished! I was unaware that he was a black physician, which makes it all the more impressive, think of all he had to overcome to do all that he did.

  7. I am confused. I thought the patient was black, & the one doctor, Hill, performed entire procedure..

  8. There’s been surgery done here, in the small town of Geneva, Alabama, that has been discussed in larger areas but not done but the AMA has frowned on it as well as others Sooooo it has stopped. Whata waste.

  9. We need to get the facts straight. Dr. Nathaniel Hale Williams did repair a chest wound but did not place a stitch in the heart. Dr. Hill actually repair the heart muscle. First in the US to have successful stitched the heart muscle. He was not the first in the world. That surgery was performed by Dr. Rehn

  10. The first open heart surgery was performed in 1893 in Chicago by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams…..a black man, but he wasn’t given credit because of the color of his skin.

    1. No, Dr Daniel Hale Williams performed the SECOND successful operation on the the pericardium, the sac surrounding the heart in 1893. Henry Dalton performed the first successful pericardium operation in 1891. Neither actually operated on the heart, but both advanced medicine greatly.

  11. Approximately after that he was nominated for a purple heart

  12. If I remember correctly, there used to be a Hills hospital in Montgomery. Someone with better memory join in.

  13. Could he be related to former Alabama U.S. Senator Lister Hill?

    1. He was Senator Hill’s father.

    2. It was my honor to sit at a banquet table in Montgomery in about 1978 with both Lister Hill and Carl Elliott.

  14. The patient, 13-yr old Henry Myrick, recovered completely and without complication from the 45 minute operation, which was performed on a kitchen table.

  15. Sen. Lister Hill was the “Hill” in the Hill-Burton Act, which called for the construction of hospitals and related health care facilities, and was designed to provide federal grants and guaranteed loans to improve the physical plant of the nation’s hospital system. Hill also helped get electricity to rural America via the Rural Electrification Act. I could go on…G.I. Bill, etc., etc.

  16. I assume the surgery was successful?

  17. I don’t know about Sen Hill but I remember a Lister Hill but was only a child

  18. Dr. Luther HilI’s patient was a 13 year old African-American boy named Henry Myrick. remember reading that Henry Myrick died many years later of a stab wound to the heart! It was in a chapter on the history of Thoracic surgery ……I do not remember which book!!!

  19. Thanks for this. The University of Alabama had 1st open heart surgery.

  20. I am Dr. Hill’s great great granddaughter. Luther Lyons Hill (Dr. Hill’s youngest son) was my great grandfather. I am named after Sen. Lister Hill’s twin sister Amelie. I was born, and raised in Iowa, but my grandfather, Luther Lyons Hill Jr, frequently took my brother and I to Montgomery to visit family, and all of the wonderful historical sites. I inherited all of the family portraits, and history upon my grandfather’s passing. I actually have the portrait in my home of Dr. Hill.

  21. My great great grandfather is Dr. Hill

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