Richard C. Lillehei

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Richard C. Lillehei
Richard C. Lillehei.jpg
Born23 October 1918
Minneapolis MN
Died1 April 1981
EducationUniversity of Minnesota
Known forPancreas transplantation
Medical career
Sub-specialtiesOrgan transplantation

Richard C. Lillehei (died 1 April 1981) was an American transplant surgeon best remembered for the world's first successful pancreas transplantation in 1966 (sometimes quoted as 1967) and the first known human intestinal transplantation.

He came from a renowned medical family in Minneapolis; his father was a dentist and his brothers were cardiologist James Lillehei and cardiothoracic surgeon C. Walton Lillehei. The Lillehei Surgical Society is named in honour of the three brothers.

Early life and education[edit]

Richard Carlton Lillehei was the son of a dentist from Minneapolis and the younger brother of cardiothoracic surgeon C. Walton Lillehei and cardiologist James Lillehei.[1]

He completed his early education from West Side High School in Edina, Minnesota and in 1948 graduated from the University of Minnesota. After graduating in medicine in 1951 from the University's medical school, he spent two years at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and gained his PhD in Surgery from the University of Minnesota in 1960.[1]

Pancreas transplantation[edit]

On 17 December 1966, Lillehei assisted William Kelly transplant part of a pancreas and a whole kidney into a 28-year-old woman with type I diabetes and renal disease. Post operative problems led to a decision to remove the graft and she died soon after. On New Year's Eve 1966, Lillehi led the world's first successful pancreas transplantation. It involved transplanting the whole pancreas, accompanying duodenum and one kidney. The recipient survived four and a half months.[1][2][3]

By 1973, he would perform 13 pancreas transplants.[2]

His other fields of research included shock treatment, organ procurement, open-heart surgery and kidney transplantation.[1]

Personal and family[edit]

Lillehei married B.J. (Elizabeth Jeanne) and they had three sons, Richard C., Ted and John.[1]

Death and Legacy[edit]

In 1986, the Lillehei Surgical Society was founded in the names of the three Lillehei brothers.[4]

Every two years an award is given to the most outstanding clinician in the field of pancreas transplantation.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e "History of Richard C. Lillehei". Lillehei Surgical Society. Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  2. ^ a b Gruessner, Rainer W. G.; Sutherland, David E. R. (2004). "4. History of Pancreas Transplantation". Transplantation of the Pancreas. Springer. pp. 45–46. ISBN 0-387-00589-7.
  3. ^ Han, Duck Jong; Sutherland, David ER (December 2010). "Pancreas Transplantation". Gut and Liver. 4 (4): 450–465. doi:10.5009/gnl.2010.4.4.450. ISSN 1976-2283. PMC 3021600. PMID 21253293.
  4. ^ "The C. Walton & Richard C. Lillehei Surgical Society". Department of Surgery - University of Minnesota. 3 April 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  5. ^ "Richard Lillehei Memorial Lecture - TTS". Retrieved 13 February 2019.