“The important result is that we do not find a beneficial effect of breast cancer screening any longer.”
Henrik Støvring PhD, of Denmark’s Aarhus University, on his team’s research suggesting that patient care has improved to a point that breast cancer screening is no longer beneficial. This is a loaded statement that will surely be met with pushback from the numerous people who view screening as a clinical lifesaver, as well as others who rely on screening as a major revenue driver.
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- Medmo – Helping underinsured Americans save on medical scans by connecting them to imaging providers with unfilled schedule time
- Pocus Systems – A new Point of Care Ultrasound startup, combining a team of POCUS veterans with next-generation technology to disrupt the industry
Keep these companies in mind each time you enjoy The Imaging Wire. Check them out and see how they’re driving our industry forward, and shoot them a note if you’re interested in learning more. They’re all great companies run by solid people.
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NVIDIA Clara Goes Live
NVIDIA officially began the launch of its Clara platform last week (currently available to early access partners), roughly six months after first revealing plans for the hardware/software AI system. The Clara platform is based on the NVIDIA Clara AGX, a computing architecture that combines NVIDIA’s Xavier AI computing module, the company’s Turing GPUs, and the Clara software development kit, allowing developers to create AI-powered applications using data pulled from existing imaging systems. The Clara platform is highlighted for its simplicity in comparison to traditional supercomputer platforms (it only requires a GPU architecture), its ability to modernize the applications that older imaging systems are able to support (like iterative reconstruction for CT/X-ray, beamforming for ultrasound, and compressed sensing for MRI), and the technical and informational resources it provides medical imaging software developers to develop apps based on the Clara platform.
Screening’s Benefits Questioned
Researchers in Denmark found that improved patient care is the main driver of reduced breast cancer mortality, not increased screening. The team followed Norwegian women between the ages of 30 and 89 from 1987 to 2010, finding that Norway’s decreased breast cancer mortality was not due to its breast cancer screening program, but because of improvements in treatment methods. The researchers claim that although screening helped in the 1980s, the benefit of screening has declined as treatment methods improved. There’s going to be some strong opinions about this one, as the study calls into question one of the most widely-adopted preventative measures, which grew in popularity in unison with a massive drop in breast cancer mortality and massive growth in the breast imaging industry.
University of British Columbia (UBC) engineers developed a flexible, band-aid size ultrasound transducer that they claim can produce image quality on par with traditional sonograms, but could reduce the cost of an ultrasound system to roughly $100. The Smartphone-powered device was developed using drum-based capacitive micromachined ultrasonic transducer (CMUT) technology built with low-cost polymer-resin materials, rather than the high-cost piezoelectric transducers used in standard ultrasound systems. The researchers admitted that the new technology still has to prove its sensitivity, durability, stability, and clinical performance, but initial results in these areas are promising as well. Despite the new ultrasound’s cost-based headlines (including in this issue of The Imaging Wire), the UBC researchers emphasized that their goal is far greater than just developing a low-cost ultrasound, revealing plans to explore other applications for polymer-based CMUTs.
Agfa Declines Offer
It didn’t take long for Agfa-Gevaert to come out and decline Kanteron’s buyout offer, without providing any additional details on its reasoning or insights into how seriously Agfa considered the offer. Agfa’s response came days after Kanteron Systems took to its blog to announce that it offered to buy Agfa Healthcare’s parent company, Agfa-Gevaert, and was in “early stage” discussions with the iconic print/ healthcare imaging company.
- A recent CB Insights report found that AI healthcare startups have raised $4.3 billion through 576 funding rounds since 2013, topping all other industries in terms of AI investment volume. The report highlighted the FDA’s embrace for AI, as it opened “commercial pathways” for over 70 AI imaging and diagnostics companies during the five-year period, and is “focused on clearly defining and regulating software-as-a-medical-device.” The article also detailed a wide range of regional and clinical AI adoption trends. It’s worth a look if you’re interested in the business side of imaging AI.
- Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia discovered a new class of fractals called “Chaotic Sensing” that could make full-body MRI scans four-times faster. The researchers claim that Chaotic Sensing allows MRIs to quickly identify important imaging data, while eliminating unnecessary information, and keeping the same level of image quality. Chaotic Sensing may also prove to be applicable to a variety of other sciences, including astronomy, biomedical engineering, and computer science.
- Butterfly Network notified doctors who signed up for its pre-order that the company will soon begin selling its “under-$2,000” Butterfly iQ ultrasound-on-a-Chip imaging system. The FDA-cleared, iPhone-compatible system supports over 13 applications, and boasts that its nearly 10,000 sensors are about 40-times greater than a system that costs 100-times more.
- Theragenics will sell and market C4 Imaging’s new Orion HDR MRI markers, which are used prior to image-guided high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy to locate the position of the applicators that target radiation at the tumor site and help avoid healthy organs and tissue.
- Researchers at Tel Aviv University developed a laser-scanning microscope add-on, called PySight, that they claim improves 2D and 3D brain imaging quality. PySight uses a detector-readout method called “photon counting,” instead of the typical “multiphoton microscopy” technique, which requires images to be captured very quickly, results in fewer photons being visible in the final images, and also creates storage issues. PySight reportedly overcomes these issues and could drive advances in brain imaging, as it allows more photons to be captured, with less storage issues, without compromising spatial or temporal resolution, and reportedly without high costs.
- Siemens Healthineers announced the first global installation of its Acuson Sequoia, installing the new ultrasound system known for its ability to scan overweight patients at Baptist Health South Florida. Baptist Health South Florida purchased numerous Acuson Sequoia systems for use across its ten facilities and five “centers of excellence” in South Florida, particularly targeting use for gastroenterology, primary care, and bariatric applications.
- Image-guided therapy solutions (iMRI & iCT) provider, IMRIS, entered into the AI data segment with the launch of its new NeuroBoard Platform, a software platform intended to help IMRIS’ neurosurgeon customers improve effectiveness through real time reporting on key metrics. Built for Neurosurgery organizations, NeuroBoard gives preconfigured insights into revenue cycle, referral patterns, research analysis, profitability measures, and procedure level insights.
- Clinical Radiology reports that radiology-related medical negligence claims are increasing in the UK, suggesting that the worst may be yet to come. The research studied 791 claims settled between 1995 and 2014, finding that the number of annual claims doubled from 2006 to 2016 and annual costs increased by nearly 4x from £400 million in 2006 to £1.6 billion in 2017 ($523m to 2.09b). Missed or delayed tumor diagnosis represented 29% of all claims, roughly 10% were due to an injury while at a radiology appointment, and 8% were due to an interventional radiology procedure.
- Carestream announced the completion of Columbus Regional Health’s (in Indiana) digital conversion with the addition of the company’s RX-Transportable System/Lite. The transportable X-ray system includes a wireless DRX Plus 3543 detector, wireless access point, and tablet PC. The system will be used in two of the hospital’s fluoroscopy rooms and a general exam room that has fixed detectors (allowing tabletop imaging in each room).
- German researchers developed a new PET imaging tracer based on a FAP-specific enzyme inhibitor (FAPI) that they found may be more effective than a 18F-FDG PET tracer in targeted cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), which is present in over 90% of epithelial carcinomas. The study found that gallium-68-labeled FAPI is capable of high tumor uptake and clears from the body at a fast rate, allowing it to create high-contrast images with a low chance of binding to healthy tissue.
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- Why Does an MRI Cost So Much? Very good question. A recent Medmo blog dissects this issue and provides some key steps to make sure patients don’t pay more than they need to for their next scan.
- Focused Ultrasound Foundation-funded researchers made a major advancement in the treatment of neurologic disease, successfully using MRI-guided focused ultrasound waves to open the blood-brain barrier, which could lead to a novel approach for delivering drugs to the brain to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
- In-house imaging – check. Faster time to diagnosis and recommendation – check. $270k estimated net profit in the first year – check. This white paper details how Carestream’s OnSight 3D Extremity System benefits orthopedic practices, clinically and financially.
- POCUS Systems’ forthcoming ultrasounds will combine ease of use, durability, and reliability, allowing clinicians to focus on their patients.