Oct 01 2009

the heart valve race

Published by at 8:41 am under healthcare,press,process

UPDATE: 10/1/09

The New York Times today has a business feature on the race between Edwards and Medtronic to develop a replacement heart valve. the original post ran on March, 28, 2008.

I tend to be attracted to more free-range photographic subjects that live out in the real world rather than shooting in a studio. But with all photography the interplay of message, light and design still come into play.

Such was the case when I had the opportunity to shoot a transcathether heart valve. This is a device that serves as an artificial heart valve that could potentially be a significant advancement because it can be easily placed into the heart by threading it up through the groin instead of more invasive open heart surgery

One of the clinical trial sites is at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where I have been shooting for their research magazine. This was an issue devoted to surgical advances and the hearh valve won out as the story to be featured on the cover. I was able to read a feature on the procedure that was published in the Cleveland Clinic Magazine and see some sample photos technical photos of the device and view a video of the insertion process.

The first approach was to attend a surgical insertion of the device and show the valve being placed by shooting real time view the surgeon sees on the angiogram monitor.

20080222 cs 9329 the heart valve race

The transcathether heart valve being inserted in a patient shown on an angiogram monitor

This had the potential to create an abstract art feel to a medical procedure where a trained eye could also see the mesh of the new heart valve and the shadow of the balloon being used to expand the valve. The attempt was a success, but the angiogram screen is still in the low definition phase and the editorial team decided that we wanted more detail and dimension that would be possible shooting the real valve.

Fortunately Edwards Lifesciences is in nearby Irvine, CA and I was able to pick up the valve and insertion device. I was attracted by both the balloon and the mesh around the valve and thought that I could make it come to life by getting very close and shining some light through the balloon and using the pattern of the mesh.

20080307 CS 9816 the heart valve race

Still life version showing the replacement valve on the insertion balloon

A version of this was on the cover of the Cedars-SinaiĀ Discoveries magazine.

Mark Harmel

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