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Innovative and award-winning: vascular implants “Made in Hechingen”

On the 26th November 2009, the Hechingen-based medical technology company JOTEC GMBH was awarded the Baden-Württemberg Innovation Prize. JOTEC specialises in solutions for the therapy of vascular diseases. The company’s “E-vita open” is an innovative hybrid stentgraft system for use in cardiac surgery. The stentgraft is ideal for treating the thoracic aorta as it significantly simplifies therapeutic procedures at the same time as putting less strain on patients.

JOTEC GmbH was awarded the Dr. Rudolf Eberle Prize for exemplary performance in the development and application of new products. The Prize, which was named after the former Baden-Württemberg Minister of Economic Affairs Dr. Rudolf Eberle, was awarded for the first time in 1985 and has been awarded to 138 out of around 1800 applicants over the last 25 years.

JOTEC Managing Director Thomas Bogenschütz and Head of Marketing Dr. Kerstin Ragnitz at the prize award ceremony, together with the Baden-Württemberg Minister of Economic Affairs, Ernst Pfister (right) and the Stuttgart District President Johannes Schmalzl (left). © JOTEC GmbH

"It was by pure chance that we heard about the Innovation Prize call in spring 2009. We decided to apply for the prize with our hybrid stentgraft system "E-vita open". The timing of this application was perfect for us, as in autumn 2008 we had launched "E-vita open plus", an improved second-generation stentgraft system," said Dr. Kerstin Ragnitz, Head of Marketing at JOTEC GmbH. The jury assessed the degree of technical progress, the companies' performance and the products' economic success. JOTEC's stentgraft system received the highest marks in all three categories and JOTEC received 15,000 euros in prize money, which was the highest amount awarded in 2009.

The "E-vita open plus" made the jury's decision relatively easy: "The system is unique - there is no other system like it available on the global market. Already in the first quarter of 2009, "E-vita open plus" accounted for 37 per cent of the company's total revenues," said Ragnitz. "E-vita open" was launched on the medical device market in 2005. The stentgraft system was developed for the treatment of life-threatening vascular diseases. The system can be used for the treatment of aneurysms and dissections of the thoracic aorta. "Following acute aortic dissection, around 90 per cent of patients die within one month if they do not receive treatment," said Ragnitz highlighting the importance of the therapy.


One instead of two operations

Elderly people suffering from cardiac diseases and other associated diseases, require treatment that is as gentle as possible. Prior to the launch of JOTEC’s stentgraft system, the therapy of aortic diseases involved two consecutive operations that were a great strain for the patients. The traditional method involves the replacement of the ascending aorta and the aortic arch in a first surgical intervention, followed by a second a few weeks later during which the thorax is opened and the descending aorta replaced. “In the time that elapses between the first and the second intervention, up to ten per cent of all patients die and up to 30 per cent are in a condition that renders a second surgical intervention impossible,” said Ragnitz explaining the need for alternatives to the traditional treatment methods. Although the traditional method has been developed further over the last few years, two surgical interventions are still required.

It took JOTEC two years to develop the “E-vita open” hybrid stentgraft system that only requires one surgical intervention. The developers paid particular attention to finding a design that enabled the optimised delivery and accommodation of the stents in the aortic arch. The implant itself consists of a combination of a classical vascular prosthesis with a stentgraft. The stentgraft is a vascular graft in which the woven polyester tissue is reinforced with very thin nitinol wires (a nickel-titanium alloy). The hybrid system is first used to treat the surgically non-accessible descending part of the thoracic aorta. The prosthesis is then safely anchored in the aortic arch, where it guarantees unrestricted blood flow.

Further improvement: “E-vita open plus”

Treatment of aortic dissection using “E-vita open”: release of the system’s stentgraft. © JOTEC GmbH

The new treatment involving only one surgical intervention is far gentler and puts considerably less strain on the patients. "For surgeons and hospitals, the simple handling and the ability to save time when implanting the "E-vita open" hybrid stentgraft system, has clear advantages for both surgeons and hospitals. The JOTEC stentgraft system costs less for the healthcare system, as two surgical interventions are no longer required," adds Ragnitz. Doctors who used the new stentgraft system for the first time communicated their opinion to the JOTEC developers. "We took these suggestions and incorporated them into the second-generation "E-vita open" system. The new version improved the implant's blood-tight properties. "Previously, significant bleeding occurred across the prosthesis wall, and the surgeons often had to tighten the prosthesis in order to stop the bleeding," said Ragnitz.

Ragnitz's colleagues in JOTEC's development department worked hard to come up with a special weaving technique that led to the development of a blood-tight prosthesis. It is no longer necessary to additionally tighten the prosthesis material; the new system minimises blood loss during surgery. "This improvement has led to even greater acceptance of the system," says Ragnitz. Further improvements were made on the delivery system, which is now equipped with ergonomically shaped handles and a "squeeze-to-release" deployment mechanism, which enables the controlled, reliable positioning of the stentgrafts.

Further information:

Dr. Kerstin Ragnitz
Lotzenäcker 23
72379 Hechingen
Tel.: +49 (0)7471 922311
E-mail: Kerstin.Ragnitz[at]JOTEC.net

Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/news/innovative-and-award-winning-vascular-implants-made-in-hechingen