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(1883 - August 15, 1957)
Born in the United States
Year of Discovery: 1950
Showed Aspirin Busts Blood Clots, Saves Lives
A key observation, made by California family physician Lawrence Craven, forever changed the treatment of heart disease. While performing routine tonsillectomies and tooth extractions, Craven made a significant connection: his patients who had been chewing aspirin gum to relieve their pain typically also had bleeding gums, and they experienced more frequent bleeding after minor surgeries. He hypothesized that aspirin prolonged the time it takes for blood to clot. Knowing that blood clots caused heart attacks, he recommended his male patients between 40 and 65 years of age take preventative doses of aspirin. Craven then closely followed 400 of his patients for the next two years and discovered that not a single patient had a heart attack.
Dr. Craven published a letter to a small regional medical journal in 1950 describing his findings. He detailed the excessive bleeding complications after tonsillectomy, suggesting aspirin has properties that prevent or delay blood clots. Unfortunately, this publication of his findings received little notice within the medical community. But Craven was not deterred. Though he was not able to fully explain why aspirin worked, he was encouraged by his results. So he expanded his study to include 8,000 men. Craven selected men, between the ages of 45 and 65, who were overweight and sedentary, factors known to lead to heart attacks. He prescribed a daily regimen of aspirin and recorded his findings. Less than a year before his death, in 1957, Craven published his final report on his 8000 patients. Not a single study patient taking aspirin therapy had died from a blood clot! Craven's original recommendations for aspirin therapy are not much different from today's guidelines, over half a century later. His efforts paved the way for future research in this area by scientists like Charles Hennekens.
All of Craven's study patients were men, because part of his hypothesis was based on his observation that more men than women were suffering heart attacks. At this time, women were more likely than men to take aspirin for everyday aches and pains, which he felt might explain gender differences in the incidence of heart attacks. In fact, Craven noted that some of his male patients initially thought taking aspirin every day was a bit feminine!
Introduction by April Ingram
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The New York Times article on Dr. Craven:
Texas Heart Institute Journal article on daily aspirin use, noting Craven's discovery:
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