March 30, 2018


In Memoriam: Dr Theodor Kolobow

1931 ~ 2018

Medical pioneer and inventor Dr Theodor Kolobow died peacefully at age 87 on March, 24, 2018 after a lengthy illness. Born in Estonia during WWII, Dr Kolobow resided in a refugee camp in Germany before arriving in the United States in 1949. 

In 1962, after completing a residency in internal medicine and pulmonology at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital, he accepted a position in the Laboratory of Technical Development at the National Heart and Lung Institute at the National Institutes of Health. He was promoted to section chief of Pulmonary and Cardiac Assist Devices in 1970, and spent the entirety of his career there and as an advisor to clinicians in the department of pulmonology at the National Health, Lung and Blood Institute at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland.

Best known for one of his earliest inventions, the spiral coil membrane lung, Dr Kolobow made many contributions to medical innovation, including advances in haemodialysis, improvements in extracorporeal life support technology and circuit components, and played a pivotal role in shaping our current understanding of cardiopulmonary pathophysiology.

When asked what his greatest achievement was, Dr. Kolobow responded, “I survived the war.” When asked what his greatest contribution was, he would say, “ECMO.” When asked what he wanted for Christmas.

He formally retired from active research in 2009, but many of his techniques and equipment that he developed are utilised in daily practice by intensive care professionals in all corners of the world today.

A tribute to Dr Kolobow entitled “Ted Kolobow” written by Luciano Gattinoni, Antonio Pesenti, Lorenzo Berra and Robert Bartlett has been published in Intensive Care Medicine Online First: Obituary ~ Luciano Gattinoni et al. Ted Kolobow


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