14 October 1964 denotes the birth of Lithuania's modern cardiac surgery as the first open heart surgery was performed in Vilnius.
This success initiated the formation of the Lithuanian school of cardiac surgery. Along the cardiac surgery related sciences, such as hematology, biochemistry, immunology, clinical anesthesiology, pharmacology and many other sciences evolved.
By 1964, Lithuania was performing closed heart surgery only, without opening chest cavity. However, our cardiac surgeons could only dream about the open heart surgeries then.
Lithuania was isolated then in the political system. Such operations have taken place in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, although with significant complications – it was still a novelty.
However, even at that time, Lithuania had the experimental laboratory for cardiovascular surgery. It existed for four years already and was led by prof. Algimantas Marcinkevičius – the outstanding Lithuanian cardiac surgeon who was looking insistently for ways to start modern heart surgery in Lithuania.
This happened in 1964. On 14 October a 14-year-old Lithuanian girl underwent open heart surgery. She was operated by professor A. Marcinkevičius, assisted by J. Mešalkinas. Other well-known Lithuanian surgeons such as V. Sirvydis, V. Triponis, A. Baublys and many other prominent doctors performed the surgery.
From that day on Lithuania cardiac surgeons moved forward step-by-step perfecting their technique and in about 1978 the Lithuanian team of cardiac surgeons has become one of the top three hospitals of the former Soviet Union – after Moscow and Kiev. This gave rise to the Lithuanian school of cardiac surgery.
Lithuanian cardiac surgeons received global recognition in 2005, when the World Heart Surgery Congress was held in Vilnius.