Robert E. Gross, 83; Pioneer in Children’s Heart Surgery Field

From Times Wire Services

Robert E. Gross, one of the nation’s premier children’s heart surgeons and a pioneer in correcting congenital cardiovascular abnormalities, died Tuesday at a nursing home here. He was 83.

Gross retired in 1972 as William E. Ladd professor of child surgery at Harvard Medical School and as chief of the cardiac program at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston. Gross launched an era of heart surgery at Children’s in 1938 when he performed the first successful operation on a child born with a defect called patent ductus arteriosus. He tied off a duct near the heart through which blood, which normally goes to the rest of the body, was directed instead to the lungs.

During the next 50 years, his operation saved the lives of thousands of children worldwide.

In 1945, in a second historic operation, he corrected a defect called coarctation, a narrowing of the aorta. This procedure also was adopted around the world. He received the American Heart Assn.'s Albert Lasker Award in 1954 and again in 1959 in recognition of his contribution to cardiovascular knowledge, making him the only doctor to be given the honor twice.