From the Vascular Community

From the Vascular Community


In memoriam: Edward B. Diethrich

Edward B. Diethrich, MD, the world-renowned cardiovascular/endovascular surgeon, inventor, and philanthropist, succumbed after a brave fight with a brain tumor on February 23, 2017, at the age of 81.

Dr. Diethrich was a pioneer in noninvasive cardiovascular and vascular disease diagnosis and innovative in surgical and endovascular therapy. He obtained his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Michigan and completed his surgical residency at St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor and the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. He went on to complete his cardiovascular surgery training under Michael DeBakey at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where he played an important role in the development of human heart transplantation.

Dr. Edward B. Diethrich

Dr. Edward B. Diethrich

Dr. Diethrich founded the Arizona Heart Institute (AHI) in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1971, which was the first freestanding outpatient clinic in the United States exclusively devoted to the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. He served as the Medical Director and Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery for AHI and founded the institute’s nonprofit Arizona Heart Foundation. Later, he served as Medical Director and Chief of Cardiovascular and Endovascular Surgery at the Arizona Heart Hospital where he performed open-heart surgery and cutting-edge endovascular procedures, many of which he designed and analyzed in several clinical trials.

One of his first accomplishments was the invention of the sternal saw in 1962, which is still used today for open-chest surgery. He also contributed to the development of a preservation chamber for heart transplantation and established one of the first ultrasound companies. Dr. Diethrich spent a lifetime developing new technologies, from a bubble oxygenator for open-heart surgery to developing and manufacturing stent grafts for aortic aneurysms. He remained actively involved in advancing the practice of vascular surgery and keeping it up-to-date with the changing times: He founded a company that develops and manufactures endoluminal grafts, established a Translational Research Center that is dedicated to clinical research and developing new technologies, and started a company devoted to the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease. His contributions to surgical education are also legendary. He organized an annual meeting that attracted physicians from all over the world and show-cased state-of-the-art techniques and innovations. He authored over 400 scientific articles, several textbooks, and lay publications and produced hundreds of educational videos and films. In fact, he organized the first live international telecast of open-heart surgery. Above all, Dr. Diethrich trained several hundred surgeons and other specialists in cardiovascular surgery and endovascular techniques, and traveled the world to demonstrate his techniques and teach local physicians. He recently endowed the Edward B. Diethrich Research Professorship in Biomedical Engineering and Vascular Surgery at the University of Michigan to recognize the collaboration that is required between surgeons and engineers.

Dr. Diethrich has received several honors, such as the Frederick A. Coller Award; Presidency of the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society; the Medal for Innovation in Vascular Surgery from the Society for Vascular Surgery; the Medal of Independence from King Hussein of Jordan; and an honorary fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons, Glasgow. The Edward B. Diethrich Vascular Surgical Society was established by several hundred of his trainees. I was honored to serve as the first President of that society.

It’s ironic that Dr. Diethrich was an early supporter of ceiling-mounted radiographic equipment, which is essential to endovascular interventions. Even with the most advanced radiation protection, Dr. Diethrich paid the ultimate price for his nearly daily exposure to radiation, which led to his 4-year battle with glioma, and, ultimately, his death. But true to form, he even used this unfortunate illness to educate others by working with the Organization for Occupational Radiation Safety in Interventional Fluoroscopy to produce a documentary on the ill effects of radiation.

Dr. Diethrich recently completed his memoirs (SLED: The Serendipitous Life of Edward Diethrich), which recounts his extraordinary 50-year career, from his early days of working and training with the world’s most renowned surgeons to his legendary international success as a cardiovascular surgeon and innovator.

In summary, Dr. Diethrich was a multifaceted, passionate, and charismatic man: a sportsman, musician, scientist, inventor, author, film producer, media personality, along with many others. His confidence, dexterity, and technical expertise were evident in both the operating room and the endovascular suite. Dr. Diethrich was a world-renowned leader and pioneer in Vascular Surgery. He was an eloquent speaker, prolific innovative scholar, and dedicated teacher. His energy was endless, and his manners were impeccable. He will be sorely missed, but his legendary contributions to medicine/vascular surgery, his trainees, and the many people he influenced will live on.

Dr. Diethrich is survived by his wife of 61 years, Gloria; daughter Lynne; son Tad; son-in-law Joe Jackson; daughter-in-law Terri Diethrich, and grandchildren Danielle Diethrich-Vargas, Courtney, Reese, and Trey Diethrich; Mackenzie, Tatum, Peyton, and Zack Jackson.

A celebration of his life will be planned in the near future. Details will be posted at

Ali F. AbuRahma, MD

Charleston, WV 25304

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