#397 – The Wire

  • Canon Acquires NRT: Canon Medical Systems announced its acquisition of Danish X-ray manufacturer and long-time business partner, Nordisk Røntgen Teknik A/S (NRT). The acquisition strengthens Canon’s European DR and fluoroscopy capabilities (R&D, manufacturing, regulatory, product portfolio), while allowing Canon to offer NRT’s higher-end flouro/interventional systems in its other global markets. Although this is a relatively small acquisition (NRT has 40 employees), it’s confirmation that Canon remains among the more aggressive acquirers in medical imaging.
  • Overestimated Overdiagnosis: A recent Annals of Internal Medicine study suggests that breast cancer overdiagnosis might be far less common than previously believed. The researchers analyzed mammography screenings from 35,986 women (2010-2018, 82.6k mammograms, 718 breast cancers, ages 50-74yrs), finding that 15.4% of screen-detected cancers are overdiagnosed (would have remained asymptomatic or women would have died of other causes while asymptomatic). That’s roughly half previous estimates (30%) and could influence shared and informed decision making.
  • Samsung’s Boston Imaging: Samsung’s NeuroLogica subsidiary announced that its U.S. X-ray and ultrasound business will now operate under the Boston Imaging brand, making the NeuroLogica brand exclusive to its mobile stroke CT business. This move seems to align with Samsung’s global healthcare business structure and adds linguistic clarity (NeuroLogica = stroke business), but it doesn’t appear to change their internal operating structure (same US/DR leadership, Boston Imaging is a DBA).
  • Imaging Inequity: A new JACR study review (n = 206 studies, 179 US-focused) added even more evidence that minority patients are commonly subjected to insufficient and inappropriate imaging. The vast majority of studies found decreased or inappropriate imaging use in minority groups (72% of studies), while nearly half of the studies (46%) showed that minority screening disparities are common even after controlling for socioeconomic factors. They also revealed a need for more research on ways to improve imaging equity, noting that just 8% of the studies evaluated strategies to mitigate imaging disparities.
  • Surprise Billing Reversal: Radiologist and other physician lobbyist groups celebrated after a U.S. District Court in Texas ruled that the federal Surprise Billing Interim Final Rule’s arbitration process violates the Administrative Procedure Act. This component of the No Surprises Act favored payors by making health plans’ calculated ‘qualifying payment amount’ the primary factor considered when surprise billing cases go to arbitration (these are often lower than real-world rates). The other components of the Surprise Billing law are still intact and this ruling could still face appeals.
  • CAC and Opacity COVID Predictions: A new Academic Radiology study revealed that CT-based CAC scores and pulmonary involvement calculations (“Opacity Scores”) could combine to predict COVID patient outcomes. The researchers produced CAC and Opacity scores using chest CTs from 142 patients with COVID pneumonia, finding that the scores predicted which patients would die from respiratory failure (0.938 AUC) far more accurately than when the CAC and Opacity scores were used independently (0.785 & 0.870 AUCs). 
  • Butterfly’s Blueprint Launch: Butterfly Network officially announced its Butterfly Blueprint platform, which is intended to make it easier for health systems to adopt the Butterfly iQ+ handheld ultrasound across clinical departments and to integrate PoC exams into enterprise systems and workflows. Although Butterfly Blueprint technically already launched at the University of Rochester Medical Center in January, this week’s announcement appears to suggest widespread availability and an increased strategic focus on system-wide deals.
  • VascuViz: Johns Hopkins researchers developed a new multimodal imaging technique that produces more detailed vascular images and could allow scientists to better understand the role of blood flow in disease development. The researchers’ new VascuViz technique combines CT, MRI, and optical microscopy, allowing far more detailed vascular 3D visualizations than any of the modalities on their own.
  • Dr. Ben on the ABR: Neuroradiologist and very worthwhile medicine economics follow, Ben White MD, detailed all the drama from the ABR’s day in 7th District Court and reiterated why so many radiologists seem to feel ripped off by the ABR Maintenance of Certification process (MOC). It’s too early to tell whether the MOCs will be deemed a misuse of the ABR’s maintenance and certification monopoly, but Dr. White’s commentary makes it quite clear that radiologists don’t find it clinically valuable.
  • LV Hypertrophy Echo AI: Cedars-Sinai and Stanford researchers developed an ultrasound AI system that can identify patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and cardiac amyloidosis, two particularly difficult-to-detect heart diseases that look similar in echocardiograms. In a test using a domestic external dataset, the algorithm automatically measured left ventricular dimensions to detect patients with increased LV wall thickness (1.7mm to 3.8mm mean error rates), and then identified patients likely to have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and cardiac amyloidosis (0.89 & 0.79 AUCs).
  • Profound Medical & GE Integrate: Profound Medical’s TULSA-PRO prostate cancer thermal ultrasound ablation system is now officially available integrated with GE Healthcare’s 3T MRIs, following their first site agreement at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The companies first announced a co-development agreement in late 2020, adding GE to Profound Medical’s existing MRI relationships with Philips and Siemens.

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-- The Imaging Wire team