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Federico Benetti


Cardiovascular News had the privilege of spending time with the famous Argentinean surgeon Federico Benetti during the recent EACTS meeting in Monaco. Since 1985, Federico Benetti has championed the resurgence of beating heart surgery. He pioneered the left anterior thoracotomy MIDCAB procedure, which he has further refined to a xiphoid approach – the xiphoid incision being a simpler, less painful approach than that through a left anterior thoracotomy. 

Federico’s father was Pablo Benetti, who performed the first open-heart operation in Argentina, and this meant that young Federico was exposed early on to a surgical influence. By the age of 14, Federico Benetti was already experimenting in heart surgery, but apart from that he said that his upbringing was normal, with a liking for football and water-skiing. According to Benetti, there was never any doubt in his mind that he would become a cardiac surgeon and he performed his first case at the remarkably young age of 24.

He was a student in Rosario, Argentina, and then trained in Sao Pablo, Brazil, under Dr Zervini. He then returned to Argentina and in 1978 began off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery (OPCAB). This meant that he was later referred to as ‘the father of beating heart surgery’. He faced a lot of resistance, but when he moved to Buenos Aires he felt he could develop the operation further, and by 1990 he had performed 700 cases off-pump and started to train people in the technique. 

In 1994, in Chicago, he showed the first minimally invasive direct coronary artery bypass (MIDCAB) in the US and in October 1994 he performed the first European MIDCAB in Italy. This heralded, what Benetti called “a new era of minimally invasive cardiac surgery”. Surgeons at that time were somewhat surprised by his technological developments. 

In 1994, Benetti, Jack Taylor and Richard Ferrari set up the company CardioThoracic Systems (CTS), which was later acquired by Guidant. They developed the mechanical stabilisers and the positioners that enable beating heart surgery and Benetti said that he is responsible for six inventions. 

Benetti initially worked on his own and describes himself as a “great conceptual thinker”. He eventually surrounded himself with engineers and he is now part of the Guidant organisation, where he is able to pass on ideas and concepts. 

He described the 1996 Oxford meeting run by Stephen Westaby as a “pivotal event”. It enabled Benetti to really showcase beating heart surgery. He said: “Most surgeons there thought I was crazy but they became aghast when one of the patients operated on, the next day, walked to the podium said how happy he was. This was a great way of popularising the procedure.” According to Benetti cardiac surgery will now move towards “gentler surgery, even ambulatory care”. 

Benetti is now focusing his attentions on his foundation, which does social work in Argentina. He is troubled by the Argentinean economic and political situation. - See more at:

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