Doctor Doctor

Billy Cohn wanted to be a rock star, and he is — as a trombone-toting heart surgeon and medical inventor.

Surprisingly, although he holds 60 patents, Cohn is not an engineer.

"I've built stuff all my life," he explains. "I love surgery, I love being in the operating room and helping people, but these days what really gets me off is going out to my little workshop behind my house and tinkering with ideas."

While Cohn outsourced the miniature turbines that form the moving parts of that mechanical heart, he actually experimented with various compounds in his workshop to come up with the flexible elastic components that allow the device to be stitched to the arteries.

Billy Cohn takes an unscheduled trombone break in the St. Luke's operating theater.
Troy Fields
Billy Cohn takes an unscheduled trombone break in the St. Luke's operating theater.
Cohn's continuous-flow tubine mechanical heart brought him international attention.
Courtesy of Dr. Cohn
Cohn's continuous-flow tubine mechanical heart brought him international attention.

Location Info


Leon's Lounge

1006 McGowen
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Downtown/ Midtown


Billy Cohn's "Celebrity DJ Night"

9 p.m. Friday, August 25, at Leon's Lounge, 1006 McGowen, 713-659-5366. No cover.

"It's a little crazy, but I buy a lot of stuff at Home Depot for my experiments," he laughs. "And I just get out there at night and try to think my way through what a particular invention needs."

His most recent invention is called a lariat. Cohn whips out his iPhone and starts a video showing the procedure, which consists of the surgeon threading two magnets on the end of tiny tubes up through an artery to the heart, somewhat similar to an angioplasty procedure.

The video, done as a live X-ray, is fascinating as the two magnets eventually meet and lock onto each other. A miniature balloon device is then threaded up the tube, and the physician manipulates a loop of metal thread around a fibrillating heart cavity.

"The danger of atrial fibrillation is that tiny blood clots form because the blood never moves and leaves the chamber like it would if the heart was functioning correctly," Cohn explains. "So if the chamber should suddenly stop fibrillating and pump blood, which is a common occurrence in fibrillation cases, chances are very high that one of those clots will travel up to the brain and cause a stroke."

This new lariat device and procedure virtually eliminates the chances of stroke in atrial fibrillation patients. With literally millions of fibrillation cases worldwide, Cohn sees a bright future for the procedure.

"The cost of caring for a stroke patient is extremely high," he says. "This device and procedure costs about $15,000 dollars, but that's just a drop in the bucket cost-wise versus what the insurance companies or any individual would have to pay for care after a stroke, not to even mention the damage to the quality of a stroke victim's life and to the lives of the family members who usually have to take on the care burden for a stroke victim."

Cohn and several associates recently returned from Germany, where they performed a lariat procedure as 600 physicians from all across Europe watched.

"I love what I do, but these days what really gets me off is inventing something that is truly useful and then finding the venture capital to make it happen," he says.

Indeed, it took some intricate scheduling to finally get Cohn to the Leon's turntables.

"They've invited me a couple of times and I just couldn't make it fit," he says. "When they approached me about August 26, I looked at my calendar and said yeah, let's do it. Then about a week ago I got a memo from a team of doctors I'm working with on building a hospital in China that we were flying out to Shanghai on the 26th.

"But I didn't want to cancel again or get a substitute, so I managed to move things around to fly out the day after."

Cohn obviously loves the spotlight of performance, whether he's in the operating room or on a stage. But the genial heart surgeon actually seems to have a bit of trepidation about his disc-jockeying debut.

"I'm such a geek about that kind of stuff," he laughs. "I'll probably just play Mott the Hoople's 'All The Young Dudes' over and over."

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My Voice Nation Help

Congratulations Billy and Happy Birthday It was a great interesting article. Hope your DJ debut went well! Cousin Ellen Manshel

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

Just getting accepted at Oberlin College in Ohio is a pretty good indicator that the good Doc was a star-in-the-making.

Great article!


Dr Heart Rock~ I'm NOT worthy..........*smirkJohnnie Walker~

Mr. J
Mr. J

What no slight of hand?


Billy what the hell are you doin with a trombone in the operating room?


Yeah yeah: Harvard Medical School, blah blah, saving lives, blah blah, miracle inventor, etc.

What about Billy's single greatest achievement:The Mall Band?!

Top THAT, Da Vinci.


great piece on Billy...these kinds of special interest stories don't come around everyday!

Jesse Dayton

Chuck Savage
Chuck Savage

I have known Billy for about 28 years since he played with Ezra in"The Econo Brass"... their motto was "show, blow, get the dough, and go"...he also had one season of reality TV on ABC as his own bad self back in '05. I too wish this article was longer... and I am proud to call Billy my friend.

Chuck Savage


What an amazing person. I bow to his unflagging energy. All that and 5 kids too. This article needs to be about 6 pages longer.

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