“Treating Lungs”: The Scientific Contributions of Dr. Theodor Kolobow

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We are fortunate to live in an age in which biomedical technology has provided us with unprecedented ability to supplant the functions of organs and support the physiologic processes of the human body. Ingenious doctors, physiologists, and engineers helped create these advances with new and innovative ideas. One of these pioneers was Dr. Theodor Kolobow. He is best known for one of his earliest inventions, the spiral coil membrane lung. His contributions to medical innovation, however, are diverse, as he also contributed to advances in hemodialysis, improvements in extracorporeal life support technology/circuit components, and through his laboratory experiments helped shape our current understanding of cardiopulmonary pathophysiology. In retrospect, much of Kolobow’s work was unified by the theme of preventing iatrogenic lung injury caused by mechanical ventilation. This tenet became more obvious as his later studies progressed to developing techniques and devices intended to limit ventilator pressures, and prevent bacterial colonization of the lungs. Although he formally retired from his research endeavors in 2009, the impact of his contributions remains prominent in our everyday use of techniques and equipment that he either originated or helped to develop.

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