World’s first heartless man was able to live without a pulse

Key points

  • Craig Lewis was suffering from an extremely rare condition that triggers a build-up of abnormal proteins
  • Doctors replaced his heart with a device that works by supplying a continuous flow of blood through the body, using blades to move it along
  • Before the device was installed, Lewis was put on a dialysis machine, an external blood pump, and a breathing machine


In a remarkable medical breakthrough, doctors at the Texas Heart Institute successfully replaced a dying man’s heart with a revolutionary device, granting him precious additional time to live.

This groundbreaking device, developed by Dr. Billy Cohn and Dr. Bud Frazier, involved installing a ‘continuous flow’ device that allowed blood to circulate in the patient’s body without the need for a pulse. The procedure not only defied conventional medical knowledge but also served as a testament to the immense potential of innovative medical technologies. This article explores the extraordinary story of Craig Lewis, a man whose life was prolonged through this extraordinary procedure.

The Challenge of Amyloidosis

In 2011, Craig Lewis, a 55-year-old man, found himself suffering from amyloidosis, an exceedingly rare autoimmune disease that triggers the accumulation of abnormal proteins. This condition quickly led to the failure of his heart, kidneys, and liver, leaving him with a mere twelve hours to live.

In the face of this dire prognosis, Dr. Cohn and Dr. Frazier proposed a radical solution that could offer Lewis a fighting chance.

The Development of a Game-Changing Device

Years prior to Lewis’s case, Dr. Cohn and Dr. Frazier had been working tirelessly to create a device capable of sustaining blood circulation without relying on the human heart’s pumping action. After conducting extensive research and testing the device on approximately 50 calves, the doctors were ready to put their creation to the ultimate test.

Raising your pulse: The device, Dr Cohn says, has a ‘moderate amount’ of homemade materials in it

The Surgical Procedure

In a race against time, Lewis’s wife, Linda, made the courageous decision to grant the doctors permission to implant the innovative ‘continuous flow’ device into her husband’s body. The procedure involved removing Lewis’s failing heart and replacing it with the device, which ensured a continuous flow of blood through his body. Although initially perplexing, the device’s ability to maintain blood circulation without a pulse was demonstrated through successful trials on the calves.

No heart: The device uses blades to circulate blood through the body, replacing the heart

Living Without a Pulse

Shortly after the surgery, Linda was astonished to discover that her husband, despite lacking a pulse, was still alive and communicating. The device, utilizing blades to propel the blood, emitted a humming sound instead of the traditional heartbeat. Lewis, with the assistance of additional medical support, such as dialysis and external blood pumps, was able to sustain his life for more than a month.

The Impact and the Journey’s End

While Lewis’s condition had temporarily improved, the progressive nature of his underlying disease ultimately took its toll. In April 2011, he passed away due to complications arising from amyloidosis, as his liver and kidneys succumbed to the disease. However, his journey, albeit brief, marked a significant milestone in medical science.

The continuous flow device proved to be a testament to human ingenuity and offered hope for the development of more advanced solutions in the future.


The extraordinary case of Craig Lewis and his groundbreaking treatment at the Texas Heart Institute shed light on the remarkable advancements occurring within the field of medical science. Dr. Cohn and Dr. Frazier’s daring procedure, involving the implantation of a ‘continuous flow’ device, defied conventional wisdom, allowing Lewis to survive for an extended period without a pulse. While Lewis’s life was tragically cut short due to the progressive nature of his condition, his story remains an inspiration, showcasing the potential of innovative medical technologies to push the boundaries of what is possible in saving and improving lives. This groundbreaking achievement paves the way for further exploration and development of alternative solutions, offering renewed hope for patients facing life-threatening conditions.


  1. Meet the world’s first HEARTLESS man who is able to live without a pulse. [Cited: 17 May 2023]. Available at:
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