Edwards Lifesciences’ roots date to 1958, when Miles “Lowell” Edwards set out to build the first artificial heart.
Edwards was a 60-year-old, recently retired engineer holding 63 patents in an array of industries, with an entrepreneurial spirit and a dream of helping patients with heart disease. His fascination with healing the heart was sparked in his teens, when he suffered through two bouts of rheumatic fever, which can scar heart valves and eventually cause the heart to fail.
With a background in hydraulics and fuel pump operations, Edwards believed the human heart could be mechanized. He presented the concept to Dr. Albert Starr, a young surgeon at the University of Oregon Medical School, who thought the idea was too complex. Instead, Starr encouraged Edwards to focus first on developing an artificial heart valve, for which there was an immediate need.
After only two years, the first Starr-Edwards mitral valve was designed, developed, tested, and successfully placed in a patient. Newspapers around the world reported on what they termed a “miraculous” heart surgery.
This innovation spawned a company, Edwards Laboratories, which set up shop in Santa Ana, California - not far from where Edwards Lifesciences’ corporate headquarters is located today.
In 1966, Edwards Laboratories was purchased by American Hospital Supply Corporation and became American Edwards Laboratories. Then, in 1985, American Edwards was acquired by Baxter International Inc. In early 2000, the company was spun-off as the independent, publicly-held corporation named Edwards Lifesciences and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “EW.”
Our spirit of innovation remains central to Edwards today as the number of patients requiring treatment for cardiovascular disease and critical illnesses is increasing dramatically, and further growth is expected in the future. Several factors are feeding this dynamic: an aging population, high incidences of rheumatic fever in developing nations, and improved diagnostic techniques that allow physicians to detect problems sooner.
Today, we continue to lead the field of tissue replacement heart valves and repair products, which help treat the approximately 300,000 patients worldwide each year who undergo heart valve procedures. Our line of Carpentier-Edwards PERIMOUNT Magna tissue heart valves is the choice of surgeons globally due to their durability and performance.
From our success in valve replacements, we moved into heart valve repair and have become the world’s leading innovator of products for surgical valve repair, or annuloplasty.
Our heart valve expertise has also led to the development of one of the most exciting opportunities in the cardiovascular field – transcatheter heart valve replacement. The specially designed valve and delivery system is being evaluated in clinical studies in which high-risk patients receive a valve replacement without traditional open-heart surgery and while their heart continues to beat. Clinicians replace a patient’s aortic valve via a catheter inserted into a small incision in either the leg or between the ribs. Our leadership in transcatheter heart valve replacement includes a commitment to meaningful innovation, rigorous scientific study, extensive clinician training and education, and significant investment in new applications of the technology.
Consistent with this effort to explore less invasive surgery, we are committed to providing tools for minimally invasive cardiac surgery that allow cardiac surgeons to perform heart valve operations through small openings, or "ports," in the spaces between the ribs.
We are also a global leader in critical care monitoring, providing life-saving information that enables clinicians to determine the best course of treatment for millions of critically ill patients. More than 40 years ago, we developed the field of hemodynamic monitoring for critically ill patients with the introduction of the Swan-Ganz catheter, and leveraged this gold-standard technology to develop our market-leading, minimally invasive FloTrac monitoring system.
Additionally, we offer a variety of products to treat vascular diseases, such as the Fogarty line of embolectomy catheters, which have been the industry standard for removing blood clots from the arms and legs for more than 40 years.
With more than 50 years of experience, we have grown into a global company, with a presence in approximately 100 countries and approximately 7,000 employees around the world. Each one of them is dedicated to furthering Lowell’s original vision to help clinicians, patients and their families work together as a united community fighting cardiovascular disease and critical illnesses.