In Memoriam: Alain Cribier, MD, FACC

Alain Cribier, MD, FACC

Alain Cribier, MD, FACC, the man who pioneered the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), passed away on Feb. 16 at the age of 79.

"A true visionary has passed," said ACC President B. Hadley Wilson, MD, FACC. "From the first days of balloon aortic valvuloplasty nearly 40 years ago, through the first-in-man TAVR 20 years ago, until today where TAVR is now the standard of care, Dr. Cribier always remained humble and committed to his colleagues and the betterment of patient care. The field of cardiology is forever changed because of his vision, leadership and persistence."

Cribier's path to TAVR started in the 1960s, when he chose a career in medicine over that of a concert pianist, according to a March 2022 feature in ACC's Cardiology magazine commemorating the 20th Anniversary of TAVR. He became fascinated with cardiac surgery at the University of Paris and subsequently found a home in the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Charles Nicolle Hospital, the main site of Rouen University Hospital. He spent most of his career at Rouen until his death.

Among his career highlights, Cribier performed the first balloon aortic valvuloplasty in 1985, but soon realized its initial success would not last because of restenosis. In the 1990s, he began exploring the possibility of using a balloon-expandable valve stent to prevent restenosis and replace the diseased aortic valve. On April 16, 2002, this vision finally became a reality when Cribier and his colleagues performed the first TAVR.

Since then, thousands of patients previously considered inoperable have benefitted from TAVR. "When you decide to innovate in medicine, you have a number of people against you," Cribier noted in 2022. "The biggest lesson is to make sure you're right, then persevere and try to jump all obstacles in your way. Never be discouraged."

"Dr. Cribier's contributions to the treatment of patients with valvular heart disease are monumental and his legacy will be long remembered. His first-in-human treatment of a patient with aortic stenosis has caused a paradigm shift in the management of patients with structural heart disease," said Michael J. Mack, MD, MACC.

In 2022, Cribier was awarded ACC's Presidential Citation by Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, MACC, for his leadership and contributions in moving TAVR from concept to reality.

"Optimizing Innovation and knowledge are concepts embedded in the ACC's Vision and vital to achieving the College's overall Mission to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health," said Itchhaporia in presenting him with the award. "As we look back on the transformational success story that is TAVR, Dr. Cribier and his life's work are reminders that transformation is not only possible, but within our reach."

"I met Alain first in the early 1980s since we shared an interest in what was to become 'structural heart disease intervention.' Among other achievements, those first 20 years produced the clinical use of balloon aortic and mitral valvuloplasty, the design of a clinically re-usable transcatheter mitral valvulotome and especially the rigorous laboratory proof-of-concept of TAVR. All should also be included in Alain's legacy," said Peter C. Block, MD, FACC. "But when I think of Alain, I think of his willingness to be both a friend and colleague to so many of us who work in structural heart. Birthday parties, multiple international meetings and especially his 10th TAVR anniversary reception of the French Legion of Honor medal in Rouen were always more a gathering of good friends than stiff collegial celebrations."

"Dr. Cribier has been wildly celebrated and will be wildly missed, but his legacy will go on and on as long as people have aortic valves which get sick. His passing leaves a large hole in our firmament," said David R. Holmes Jr., MD, MACC.

Clinical Topics: Cardiac Surgery, Invasive Cardiovascular Angiography and Intervention

Keywords: Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, In Memoriam, History, Biography

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