Fischer Medical seeks renewed life in electrophysiology, digital radiography

April 26, 2007

A newly constituted company drawn from the remnants of a past innovator in digital imaging aims to put a CT-like twist on general radiography. Fischer Medical Technologies plans to update the general radiography platforms that were once the foundation of its predecessor, Fischer Imaging, with novel digital detectors, inexpensive processors, and conebeam rendering software. Its top executive hopes the products it creates will change the way surgeons operate.

A newly constituted company drawn from the remnants of a past innovator in digital imaging aims to put a CT-like twist on general radiography. Fischer Medical Technologies plans to update the general radiography platforms that were once the foundation of its predecessor, Fischer Imaging, with novel digital detectors, inexpensive processors, and conebeam rendering software. Its top executive hopes the products it creates will change the way surgeons operate.

Morgan Nields, chairman and CEO of Fischer Medical, has crafted a plan that will take the company to this point, but only after building revenue streams in electrophysiology (EP). Next month, the company will unveil an advanced EP stimulator, the first public sign of this multitiered strategy. The EP Stim will appear at the Heart Rhythm Society meeting in Denver as successor to the Bloom EP Stimulator, a mainstay of the company whose assets form the foundation of Fischer Medical.

The Bloom EP Stimulator has been shipping since January, earning money for Fischer Medical while its engineers put the finishing touches on the new product, a software-driven device with enhanced features and a PC-compatible interface. Its design had been virtually completed when Fischer Imaging began its financial death spiral several years back.

"The Fischer Imaging folks didn't do much with it," said Nields, who served as chairman and CEO of Fischer Imaging several years before its demise. "We just had to revalidate its design."

EP Stim and its predecessor will constitute the company's EP portfolio, as Fischer Medical seeks to rekindle interest in upgraded x-ray products once sold by Fischer Imaging. These products will include the VersaRad, a ceiling-mounted U-arm originally designed for general-purpose radiography, and SPX, a ceiling-mounted C-arm intended for interventional applications. They were acquired along with other Fischer Imaging assets late last year (DI SCAN, 10/31/07, Ex-Fischer Imaging execs scoop up assets).

The first step toward revitalizing these imaging systems will be to open revenue streams for the refurbishing and upgrading of ones that were installed years ago by Fischer Imaging. Hundreds of VersaRad and SPX units are currently installed at hospitals, according to Nields.

"Rather than retiring them, their owners have a lot of interest in upgrading them," he said.

Nields will do so by developing upgrades built around digital radiography detectors, using these components to update the product lines with features that will support sophisticated interventional procedures and attract new sales.

"Basically, we are going to create systems capable of doing 3D x-ray imaging," he said.

Conebeam x-ray has been largely limited to the expensive angio labs, Nields said. Technological advances in recent years in detectors and processing, however, have opened the door for the development of compact systems with rotating imaging chains that can be used routinely in surgical settings.

Helping to drive these efforts will be Ron Shores, the president of Fischer Medical. A decade ago, Shores developed an advanced CT power supply as the cornerstone of a business he sold in 1999 to Colorado MedTech. Nields, Shores, and their staff will now seek to create innovative yet inexpensive x-ray tools of the future.

In 10 years, physicians will be asking routinely for 3D images of patients, not only during surgery but in the assessment of trauma victims, according to Nields. New DR detectors will evolve from improved fabrication techniques being pioneered by the semiconductor industry. Chip sets developed for consumer electronics will provide the means for running software that will create volumetric reconstructions.

"This will enable lots of specialized niche-type products," he said. "My focus will be in adding value at the leading edge of the intersection of this technology and clinical need."