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Fonar signs Viatronix deal to move into virtual imaging


Imaging innovator Fonar, which calls itself “the most experienced MR manufacturer in the business,” has joined forces with Viatronix to spin off in a slightly different direction. It will market and sell the Stony Brook, NY, company’s CT

Imaging innovator Fonar, which calls itself “the most experienced MR manufacturer in the business,” has joined forces with Viatronix to spin off in a slightly different direction. It will market and sell the Stony Brook, NY, company’s CT image processing and viewing products.

The announcement was made by Melville, NY-based Fonar, which has signed a letter of intent to enter into an agreement with Viatronix. Viatronix products, specifically the Viatron 2000 image capture and processing system and the Viatron 1000 viewer, enable clinicians to perform virtual colonoscopies and other procedures using CT.

Although CT is not Fonar’s primary area of expertise, the move is a logical one for the 22-year-old firm. The company may eventually form a joint venture with Viatronix aimed at determining how its technology might best be applied to MRI scanners.

“The incomparable soft-tissue visualization that only MRI provides would be highly compatible with this wonderful technology and would be particularly compatible with Fonar’s array of open, high-speed MRI products,” Dr. Raymond Damadian, president of the company, said in a news release. “I also believe this combination of technologies would go a long way to halting the ravages of cancer.”

The first Viatronix system is scheduled to be installed in Fonar’s MRI scanning center in Garden City, NY, Viatronix said. Other Fonar imaging centers that have both MRI and CT capabilities will install the technology later, according to Arie Kaufman, vice president of research and development for Viatronix and a codeveloper of the technology.

Fonar refused to specifically discuss the agreement with SCAN. However, in a news release the company said Viatronix technology holds significant potential.

“The public has been highly resistant to the discomfort and associated risks of traditional optical colonoscopies—problems that Viatronix’s new product totally eliminates,” said Timothy Damadian, president and CEO of Health Management Corp. of America, Fonar’s physician and diagnostic services subsidiary. “We’re especially enthusiastic because noninvasive colon screening is a perfect product for our diagnostic imaging centers.”

The technology was developed at nearby State University of New York, Stony Brook, Kaufman said. Using volume-rendering technology developed by Viatronix, the Viatron 200 subtracts other body organs from the scan data and creates a real-time 3-D view of the colon. That model enables physicians to easily search the colon for polyps and other abnormalities.

Although the technology’s most prominent application involves the colon, other uses are expected to follow. Those may include whole-body scans, scans of other organs, and imaging to detect aortic aneurysms. Aortic aneurysm is among the leading causes of death in the U.S.

“Our products connect to any CT machine made by any manufacturer,” Kaufman said. “This is going to become the procedure of choice. It’s been estimated that if compliance is similar to that of mammography, the gastroenterologists will be swamped—there will not be enough manpower to actually remove all the polyps that are found.”

According to the American Cancer Society, some 56,600 deaths from colon cancer were reported during 1999. An estimated 129,400 new cases were diagnosed during the same period.

It is widely known that colorectal cancer is preventable with timely and accurate colon screening and subsequent removal of certain potentially dangerous polyps. Medical research indicates that a polyp may not grow to a life-threatening size for up to 10 years.

Will the technique eventually replace traditional colonoscopy, an uncomfortable procedure that involves insertion of an imaging device into the rectum?

“This definitely has several advantages,” Kaufman said. “It’s noninvasive, it’s comfortable, it’s accurate, it’s inexpensive, and it’s very fast—in 40 seconds you’re out. But, it’s primarily a mass screening procedure.”

The cost of a CT colonoscopy is about $300, Kaufman said. By contrast, a traditional colonoscopy can range from $1000 to more than $2000.

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