Morton Mower, an entrepreneurial cardiologist who helped invent an implantable defibrillator that saved many lives by restoring potentially fatal irregular heart rhythms to normal with an electric shock, died on April 25 in Denver. He was 89 years old.
His son, Mark, said cancer was the cause.
Dr. Mower and Dr. Michel Mirowski, a colleague at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, began work in 1969 on a device that would be small enough to be implanted under the skin of the abdomen and quickly correct heart rhythms when they go dangerously wrong.
Dr. Mirowski came up with the idea of miniaturizing a defibrillator; Dr. Mower, who had self-taught electrical engineering in his basement laboratory, believed it could be done.
“We were the fools who wanted to put a time bomb in people’s chests,” said Dr. Mower in 2015 in an interview with the medical journal The Lancet, which noted at the time that two million people around the world they had received the implantable device.
Doctors quickly developed a prototype and formed a partnership in 1972 with Medrad, a manufacturer of medical equipment. But the development of an implantable defibrillator has had its critics.
Writing in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, Dr. Bernard Lown, who invented the first effective external defibrillator, and Dr. Paul Axelrod stated that patients with ventricular fibrillation were better served by surgery or a program antiarrhythmic.
“Indeed,” they said, “the implanted defibrillator system represents an imperfect solution to the search for a plausible and practical application.”
The work continued. After being tested on animals, the battery-operated device, the size of a pack of cards, was first implanted in humans at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1980. Five years later, it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
At the time, the FDA said the implantable defibrillator could save 10,000 to 20,000 lives per year by allowing people to quickly correct the arrhythmia rather than waiting to reach the hospital emergency room, where external defibrillators are used, with their plates.
Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, president of the American Heart Association, said in a telephone interview that 300,000 devices, now as small as a silver dollar, are implanted each year.
“Letting people walk around with a defibrillator, rather than being in a hospital under constant care, was truly revolutionary in saving the lives of people at risk of a fatal heart attack,” said Dr. Lloyd-Jones.
He added that another advantage of the device, formally known as an automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator, is that its electric shock is delivered directly to the heart. The shock of the external defibrillator must travel from its pads through the skin and tissues before reaching the heart.
Dr. Mower and Dr. Mirowski were inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002, along with Alois Langer, a project engineer at Medrad, and M. Stephen Heilman, the company’s founder.
Morton Maimon Mower was born on January 31, 1933 in Baltimore and grew up in Frederick, approximately 50 miles west. His father, Robert, was a shoemaker and his mother, Pauline (Maimon) Mower, was a housewife.
As a young man, Morton worked summers for his uncle Sam, who owned beach clubs and a toy store in Atlantic City. When his uncle fell ill, Morton was struck by the way the family treated the doctor during his home visits.
“They made him sit down; they made him have a cup of tea, “Dr. Mower told the University of Maryland School of Medicine alumni magazine, which he graduated from in 1959, in an interview.” I thought, Gee, it’s not bad. That’s what I’d like to do. “
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1955, where he was in the medical graduate program, and a medical degree, Dr. Mower completed an internship at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
He became chief resident at Sinai Hospital in 1962 and then served from 1963 to 1965 in the Army Medical Corps in Bremerhaven, Germany, where he was chief of medicine.
In 1966, he began a six-year stint as an investigator in the Sinai Coronary Medicines Project. Eventually he became an attending physician and chief of cardiology at the hospital. A building was named for him on his campus in 2005.
Dr. Mower became wealthy thanks to the licensing of defibrillator technology and used his money to build an extensive art collection that included works by Rembrandt, Picasso and Impressionist masters.
After leaving Sinai in 1989, he worked for two defibrillator manufacturers: Cardiac Pacemakers, an Eli Lilly subsidiary, as vice president, and Guidant, as a consultant. He later taught medicine at Johns Hopkins and, more recently, at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.
Dr. Mower recently created a company, Rocky Mountain Biphasic, to find commercial uses for its many patents in areas including cardiology, wound healing, diabetes, and Covid-19.
In addition to his son, he is left with his wife, Toby (Kurland) Mower, a registered nurse; a daughter, Robin Mower; three grandchildren; a brother, Bernard; and a sister, Susan Burke. He lived in Denver.
Dr. Mower’s work to restore heart rhythms didn’t end with the implantable defibrillator.
“I realized this was incomplete therapy,” he told The Lancet, referring to the defibrillator. “It prevented right ventricular fibrillation but did nothing to support left ventricular function. People were dying of congestive heart failure.”
He and Dr. Mirowski then invented cardiac resynchronization therapy, or CRT, which uses an implantable device much like a pacemaker to send electrical impulses to the heart’s left and right ventricles in order to force them to contract more efficiently, model. organized.
“CRT has been as big of a breakthrough as implantable defibrillators,” said Dr. Mower, adding that when he began testing the treatment on patients in the Netherlands, “it was almost unbelievable how patients would come out of heart failure.”