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No incision needed for new artificial heart valve

By Keith McCord | Posted - Sep. 13, 2012 at 7:31 p.m.


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DRAPER — A business in Draper is making a difference to those who battle cardiovascular disease.

Carrie, a Quality Systems Auditor at Edwards Lifesciences, was born with a congenital heart disease, and underwent two surgeries as a child. She lives a healthy and active life now, and her working here is extremely important to her.

"It's very meaningful to me for me to work at a place like Edwards Lifesciences that helps save the lives of patients just like me," Carrie said. "It's very rewarding."

After 50 years of specializing in heart valve technology, including the development of the first mechanical valve in 1958, Edwards' focus is now on developing products that make heart surgeries less invasive.

"If you had the opportunity to have a heart procedure, where you didn't have to open up your chest, and you could do it intravascularly, you'd likely want that option," said Rich Lunsford, Corporate Vice President of Cardiac Surgery Systems.

With the newly developed Transcatheter Heart Valve, that's now possible. Just approved by the FDA, surgeons can now compress the artificial valve small enough that it can be threaded through a patient's artery and into the heart and put into place; no incisions in the chest, no cracking the sternum, and a much quicker recovery.

"Patients who previously had no option at all for treatment are now able to have their life back essentially," said Amanda Fowler, executive director of Global Corporate Giving at Edwards Lifesciences.

The Draper facility, with 450 employees opened in 2010. Originally planned as a manufacturing operation, it now also focuses on research and development. With manufacturing facilities all over the world, the company makes hundreds of parts and components that cardiac surgeons rely on in the operating room.

Edwards' engineers work hand-in-hand with the doctors who can tell them, here's what we'd like to have, and the engineers figure out how to give it to them.

"We just two weeks ago had 20 surgeons from around the country, the top minimally invasive surgeons come here and interact with the engineers on modifications and ideas on future products," Lunsford said.

For heart patients like Carrie , that's a big deal.

"I do understand how the heart works and how the products we make here help to improve people who have cardiovascular disease, how it helps improve their lives, how our products work in surgery, I do understand," Carrie said.

Later this month, the American Heart Association will hold its annual "Heart Walk" at Sugarhouse Park. The walk attracts thousands of people and helps raise money and awareness for the disease which is the number one killer in the world.

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Keith McCord

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