Helium-Free MRI | Hive Mind AI | A Bid for Agfa

“The results of this study are very exciting as they point towards a future where doctors and AI algorithms can work together in real-time, rather than human practitioners being replaced by automated algorithms.”

Stanford University radiology professor, Dr. Matthew Lungren, commenting on evidence from a recent study revealing that a team of radiologists using intelligence algorithms to collaborate as a “hive mind” can diagnose images better than either independent radiologists or AI algorithms.


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Philips Goes Helium-Free

Philips took a big step toward addressing MRI’s helium problem this week. The company launched the FDA/CE-cleared Ingenia Ambition X 1.5T MR, featuring the company’s new BlueSeal MRI magnet technology. Heralded as the industry’s “first fully sealed” magnet, BlueSeal seals a small amount of helium into the magnet during the manufacturing process, significantly reducing helium consumption and helium-related requirements (less than 0.5% of a current 1.5T system). Philips rightfully emphasized BlueSeal’s benefits throughout most of the announcement, as it reduces: cooling-related downtime, magnet weight (by 900kg!), system size/footprint, and both installation and helium costs. The Ingenia Ambition X also launches with Philips’ latest MRI innovations including Compressed SENSE (reduces exam times by up to 50%) and VitalEye (detects and extracts patient movement to cut setup time), while adding Philips’ new BlueSeal-specific EasySwitch solution (simplifies process to turn magnet off and on if something gets stuck in the bore).

Given this long list of advantages and the fact that helium is a limited resource, the Ingenia Ambition X gives Philips a useful differentiator and discussion-driver (at least for now). That’s not to say there won’t be challenges, as Philips will still have to prove BlueSeal’s stability and may not be able to justify a significant price premium given that helium costs are generally covered by service contracts. However, progress and challenges are a package deal, and the Ingenia Ambition X marks an impressive milestone for Philips and the MRI modality.


Hive Mind Wins
Stanford University and swarm intelligence developer, Unanimous AI, unveiled a study showing that a small group of doctors using intelligence algorithms to collaborate as a “hive mind,” could diagnose pneumonia from chest X-rays with greater accuracy than individual doctors or machine learning algorithms alone. Here is the evidence – the “hive mind” radiologists achieved a 33% lower error rate diagnosing chest X-rays compared to diagnoses from individual doctors and were 22% more accurate in binary classification than Stanford’s own CheXNet AI system. In addition to improving the accuracy of radiological diagnoses, Swarm AI technology could also create better “ground truth” datasets to train other AI algorithms, potentially leading to future breakthroughs. This is a pretty cool twist to the AI vs. radiologist storyline, adding proof to the theory that AI is valuable in amplifying radiologist accuracy while still maintaining radiologists’ direct participation in the diagnostic process.


Kanteron Systems Makes a Bid for Agfa
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. Kanteron Systems didn’t beat around the bush in its acquisition proposal, reminding Agfa that its revenues have been stagnant for years and suggesting that this acquisition would give Agfa access to Kanteron’s “leading-edge technology.” Kanteron was specifically referring to its pathology and genomics tech, which it suggests would allow Agfa to “take the lead in the new Clinical Information Systems for Precision Medicine market.” That said, this feels more like a competitive acquisition than a synergistic one, giving Kanteron access to Agfa’s enterprise imaging technology and customer base (Agfa’s print business would almost certainly be spun-off, maybe imaging hardware too). The non-binding offer is far from guaranteed, but Kanteron has a point about Agfa’s stagnant revenue, and this situation is worth keeping an eye on.



The Wire

  • Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) had a big MRI week, installing the country’s first NICU-dedicated MRI system and beginning operation of the US’ second 7T MRI system. The BWH NICU department added Aspect Imaging’s new EMBRACE NICU MRI system, giving its infant patients an MRI that is closer and customized for their needs. The new 7T scanner (Siemens Magnetom 7T Terra) provides more than double the strength of conventional systems, allowing enhanced visibility into musculoskeletal conditions and neurological diseases for both clinical and research applications.



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