A Tribute to Dr Willem J. Kolff: Innovative Inventor, Physician, Scientist, Bioengineer, Mentor, and Significant Contributor to Modern Cardiovascular Surgical and Anesthetic Practice

  • Theodore H. Stanley
    Correspondence
    Address reprint requests to Theodore H. Stanley, MD, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Utah School of Medicine, 30 North 1900 East 3C444, Salt Lake City, UT 84132.
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    Department of Anesthesiology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
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Published:April 08, 2013DOI:https://doi.org/10.1053/j.jvca.2012.11.011
      DR WILLEM JOHAN KOLFF, shown in Fig 1, the inventor of the artificial kidney and renal dialysis, the artificial heart (AH), transmembrane oxygenation of blood, and numerous other medical devices, techniques, and concepts, and generally recognized as the “Father of Artificial Organs,” died of “natural causes” at the age of 97 on February 11, 2009, in a Philadelphia care center.
      • Broers H.
      Inventor for Life. The Story of WJ Kolff, Father of Artificial Organs.
      • Heiney P.
      The Nuts and Bolts of Life, Willem Kolff and the Invention of the Kidney Machine, Stroud, Gloucestshire.
      • Morrissey M.
      • Willem J.
      Kolff (1911-2009): Physician, inventor, and pioneer: Father of artificial organs.
      • Nosé Y.
      My life with Dr. Willem Kolff.
      • Thompson K
      • Khanwilkar P
      Willem Kolff and his “posterity,” expanding the world of the possible.
      • Olsen D.B.
      Dr. Willem J. (Pim) Kolff: The legend, my mentor.
      • Pace N.L.
      • Matthews M.
      • Stanley T.H.
      Anesthetic management of the first permanent, orthotropic, prosthetic cardiac replacement (total artificial heart) in man.
      Some senior members of the specialty may remember that Dr Kolff, Pim to his friends and associates, was part of a team of physicians, scientists, and bioengineers that made worldwide headlines on December 2, 1982, by implanting the world's first permanent total AH (TAH) into Seattle dentist Dr Barney Clark at the University of Utah (U of U) Medical Center.
      • Pace N.L.
      • Matthews M.
      • Stanley T.H.
      Anesthetic management of the first permanent, orthotropic, prosthetic cardiac replacement (total artificial heart) in man.
      Others, especially younger physicians in practice and those still in training, may have read or heard his name mentioned with regard to the invention of the intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) or intracardiac injection of potassium citrate to transiently stop the beating heart during cardiac surgery.
      • Moulopoulos S.D.
      • Topaz S.
      • Kolff W.J.
      Diastolic balloon pumping (with carbon dioxide) in the aorta: A mechanical assistance to the failing circulation.
      • Kolff W.J.
      • Effler D.B.
      • Groves L.K.
      • et al.
      Disposable membrane oxygenator (heart-lung machine) and its use in experimental surgery.
      • Kolff W.J.
      • Effler D.B.
      • Groves L.K.
      • et al.
      Elective cardiac arrest by the melrose technique: Potassium asystole for experimental cardiac surgery.
      • Effler D.B.
      • Groves K.
      • Sones Jr, F.M.
      • et al.
      Elective cardiac arrest in open-heart surgery: Report of three cases.
      Few in the specialty appreciate the magnitude and breadth of Dr Kolff's multiple contributions to medicine and their impact on anesthesiology.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Fig 1Dr Kolff at the height of his career in the late 1970s in Salt Lake City.

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      1. Innovations, The Newsletter for Technology Venture Development of the University of Utah, Winter, 2012