Fischer ups digital mammography ante

October 6, 1993

Fischer Imaging is hot on the heels of competitor Lorad in therace to develop a full-breast digital mammography system. Denver-basedFischer plans to display a full-view digital system as a works-in-progressat the Radiological Society of North America

Fischer Imaging is hot on the heels of competitor Lorad in therace to develop a full-breast digital mammography system. Denver-basedFischer plans to display a full-view digital system as a works-in-progressat the Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicagonext month.

Developing a mammography system capable of digitizing the entirebreast has been one of the last hurdles in digital mammography.Existing digital systems have small fields-of-view, such as the50 x 50-mm FOV offered by digital spot mammography systems fromboth Fischer and Lorad.

Lorad reported that its engineers, working in coordinationwith parent ThermoTrex, have made the breakthrough needed fora full-breast system (SCAN 9/8/93). Now it's Fischer's turn.

The company is leveraging off its MammoVision digital spotmammography system to achieve full-view digital mammography, accordingto president and COO Roberto Cascella.

"The MammoVision is limited to a 50 x 50-mm field-of-view,"Cascella said. "It is an engineering challenge to expandupon that and have full-breast imaging done digitally, and thatis what we're attempting to do."

MammoVision incorporates a fiber-optics reducer bonded to acharge-coupled device (CCD) chip. In order to expand that technologyto full FOV imaging, Fischer engineers must build a series offiber-optics reducers and CCD chips that create a full field-of-view,Cascella said.

Fischer has high hopes for full-view digital.

"To bring digital to diagnostic mammography brings allthe image enhancement and digital capabilities to an otherwisefilm-based system," Cascella said. "You have lower dosage,more image enhancement and manipulation capabilities (than whenusing film). You also have the capability to make images transferableto different networks in hospitals, so you can acquire, transmitand store or archive images digitally."

Lorad and Fischer have followed remarkably similar paths inpushing the envelope of mammographic technology. Both companiesreleased digital spot mammography systems late last year (SCAN12/30/92 and SCAN 10/7/92), and both market prone stereotacticbiopsy table products. The biopsy tables are subject to a lawsuitfiled by Fischer against Lorad (SCAN 4/8/92). That case is expectedto go to trial in March 1994.

In addition to showing the full-view digital unit at the RSNAmeeting, Fischer plans to display a high-end diagnostic mammographyunit outsourced from Planmed of Finland. Fischer will be distributingthe company's Sophie mammography system in the U.S. on an exclusiveOEM basis, Cascella said.

The deal gives Fischer access to a high-end mammography unitto complement its Athena mid-tier system without spending R&Dmoney to develop a system on its own.

"The diagnostic unit is a fairly common system,"Cascella said. "There are 20 or 30 companies making them.Rather than spending R&D resources on making another diagnosticunit, we felt it wisest to try to outsource that and continueto spend R&D dollars in areas like digital mammography andin breast biopsy."