November 14, 2009
William Ganz, Catheter Inventor, Dies at 90
Dr. William Ganz, a cardiologist and medical inventor who helped develop a revolutionary catheter to measure blood flow and heart functions, died Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 90.
His son Tomas confirmed the death.
The catheter, which is used more than one million times a year in the United States, is known as the Swan-Ganz because Dr. Ganz created it with Dr. Jeremy Swan at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. It is inserted through a vein in the neck, shoulder or groin and fed into the right side of the heart. A balloon at the device's tip allows it to be carried along by blood flow.
When in place, the balloon deflates and the catheter rests in the pulmonary artery, where it can measure the effects of a heart attack and a patient's response to medication, among other factors. The device is also used in heart surgery. Before the introduction of the Swan-Ganz catheter, patients had to be catheterized in special surroundings, with X-ray images to guide placement, and not at their bedside.
Dr. Jeffrey W. Moses, director of the Center for Interventional Vascular Therapy at Columbia University Medical Center, said in an interview on Thursday that the Swan-Ganz device had a "phenomenal impact on the understanding of cardiovascular disease."
The inventors reported developing the catheter in 1970, and it was quickly adapted by other physicians. The following year, Dr. Ganz came up with a method for directly measuring blood flow in humans. The measurement technique was then incorporated into the Swan-Ganz catheter.
Dr. Moses said that Dr. Ganz's measuring procedure, called thermodilution, involves gauging the temperature difference of blood as it moves from one chamber of the heart to the next. By plugging in Dr. Ganz's mathematics, this temperature difference tells the amount of blood that changed chambers.
Dr. Ganz was born in 1919 in Kosice, Slovakia. His education at the medical school of Charles University in Prague was interrupted by the Nazi takeover of Czechoslovakia. Like other Jews, he was incarcerated in a Nazi labor camp rather than being drafted into the army. He was eventually discharged and went to Budapest, where he thought hiding would be easier than in Kosice, his son said.
After the war, he returned to Prague and finished medical school. He became a cardiologist and began his work on thermodilution. In 1966 he emigrated to Los Angeles to escape communism. Dr. Swan, then chief of cardiology at Cedar-Sinai, hired him.
In 1982, Dr. Ganz collaborated with Dr. P. K. Shah, now director of cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, to conduct early studies in treating heart attacks by dissolving coronary artery blood clots. Clot-dissolving therapy became a standard treatment for heart-attack patients.
The American College of Cardiology gave Dr. Ganz its distinguished scientist award in 1992.
Dr. Ganz's wife, Magda, died in 2005. In addition to his son Tomas, he is survived by another son, Peter, and five grandchildren.