To the Editor:—
In delivering the 43rd Rovenstine Lecture, “Assessing the Past and Shaping the Future of Anesthesiology,” which was reprinted in the May 2005 issue of Anesthesiology, Jerome H. Modell, M.D., D.Sc. (Hon) (Professor Emeritus of Anesthesiology, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, Florida), pays tribute to his many American mentors, friends, and colleagues. Certainly, the credits could be well merited, but in the case of Dr. Thorkild Andersen, they are misplaced. Dr. Modell is correct when he states that “Critical care medicine also is primarily an outgrowth of anesthesiology” but incorrect when he states that it was “Dr. Thorkild Andersen and his colleagues in Copenhagen, Denmark, [who] demonstrated that polio victims could be kept alive if they were intubated and hand ventilated by an anesthesiologist at the bedside.” The honor for demonstrating that polio victims were succumbing considerably more frequently from respiratory insufficiency than from overwhelming virus encephalitis belongs solely to another Danish anesthesiologist: Dr. Bjørn Ibsen.2,,3 During the 1952 poliomyelitis epidemic in Denmark, it was he who showed that polio victims, with paralysis of the respiratory or bulbar muscles, could often be kept alive if they were treated as Dr. Modell describes in his Rovenstine lecture. Ibsen's account of events is available, in his own words.
In the short term, the contribution of Bjørn Ibsen was of fundamental importance for the victims of polio. But it was the well-deserved credit he gained from his achievements in the great struggle of the polio epidemic that made it possible for Ibsen to open the first multidisciplinary intensive care unit in the world at the Kommune Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, on December 21, 1953.
*Holstebro Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark. email@example.com