Nov 02 2011
Update: The FDA approved the Edwards valve – it is the first replacement for the aortic valve.
Patients that received a new heart valve and the manufacturer Edwards LifeSciences are both very happy today. New research announced at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting reported that many patients who received this transcatheter Sapien heart valve felt “like they were ten years younger.”
I was able to see the new valve up close while I was taking photos for the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Fall 2008 research magazine Discoveries. There was a cover story about one of the clinical trials at the hospital that involved this experimental artificial heart valve. Instead of requiring open-heart surgery this valve is designed to be inserted up through the groin into the heart. It’s then expanded into place at the site of the current damaged heart valve by a balloon.
Editor Laura Grunberger, designer Diane Kuntz and I pondered the best way to create a cover photo for the valve story. There was the possibility of shooting a rare live surgery of a trial patient, or a still life of the valve itself. We decided to explore both options. Live surgery presents its own shooting challenges, but I had recently been shooting in an angiogram suite and was impressed by the video images that are captured during the procedure.
I thought the balloon and wire mesh had great design possibilities and there could be an angiogram art approach to the story. But I didn’t count on the heart monitor (dark instrument on the right) getting in the way. It was still a contender though and there was room for type and copy that would fit a cover design.
The second version involved going down to Edwards Lifesciences in Irvine to pick up an experimental valve. There I received my training on inflating the balloon and how not to destroy the sample. Back in my studio I had to operate the controls like the real surgeon above while putting it into place and keeping it damp without looking wet.
I had seen the more scientific depiction of the valve on the Edwards site and wanted to take a more dramatic approach. This involved setting up my own still-life surgery where the macro lens was inches away from the valve that was surrounded by lights, stands and reflectors.
I loved the balloon and mesh and created this detailed shot that had an abstract feel. I gave Diane some room to move in a little tighter, she inserted the masthead and some copy blocks you have a cover shot.
Older patients that couldn’t survive open-heart surgery can now live longer, happier lives and the technique could move to wider use as the clinical trials progress.
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