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Imatron opens first HeartScan clinic for ultrafast CT coronary screening


Seattle site is first in national networkFast CT developer Imatron this month opened its first HeartScanImaging clinic in Seattle to provide coronary artery disease riskassessment studies. The clinic is the first in what Imatron hopeswill be a

Seattle site is first in national network

Fast CT developer Imatron this month opened its first HeartScanImaging clinic in Seattle to provide coronary artery disease riskassessment studies. The clinic is the first in what Imatron hopeswill be a national network of sites based around its ultrafastCT technology.

Imatron launched its HeartScan Imaging subsidiary in 1993 toprove the utility of its technology, and the company set up abeta-site clinic near its South San Francisco headquarters (SCAN4/6/94 and 4/21/93). Since then, an increasing number of clinicalstudies have indicated the utility of ultrafast CT for detectingcalcium deposits in coronary arteries, which may be a precursorto coronary arteriosclerosis.

The opening of the Seattle clinic marks a milestone in Imatron'sefforts to win acceptance for its technology, according to DaleGrant, president of HeartScan Imaging. Unlike the South San Franciscosite, the Seattle clinic will offer the coronary artery scan (CAS)provided by Imatron's ultrafast CT machines as well as a fullrange of traditional risk-assessment testing to determine a patient'slikelihood of developing coronary artery disease (CAD).

"We deliver to the cardiologist a comprehensive profileof a given patient's risk factors and whether they have preclinicalatherosclerosis," Grant said.

The Seattle clinic has the capacity to handle up to 30 patientsa day. Patients will either refer themselves to the clinic orwill be sent by a physician. Imatron is conducting a low-levelmarketing program directly to the public and a high-level marketingcampaign to area physicians. The clinic will try to attract patientswho are asymptomatic for CAD but have one or more risk factors,such as a family history of the disease. HeartScan received approvalfrom the state of Washington last year to accept self-referredpatients.

A HeartScan risk assessment profile will be priced at $500a patient, including professional component. Patients can receiveonly the ultrafast CT test for $400. The test is reimbursableas a modified CT of the chest by a number of insurers, Grant said.Medicare reimbursement is generally not an issue because the testis designed for patients in their 40s and 50s.

If the test does prove useful in predicting coronary arterydisease, the implications -- and the financial payoff for Imatron-- could be huge. Imatron cites conservative estimates that between10 to 20 million people in the U.S. could be candidates for CAS.If CAS is accepted, clinicians will then be left with the dilemmaof when patients should be referred for the test.

"I think it has been clinically proven that calcium depositsin coronary arteries as detected by ultrafast CT are markers forthe atherosclerotic process," Grant said. "The questionremaining is more of a positioning question. Our expectation isthat this will take some time to develop as a traditional screeningtest."

Coronary artery scanning has attracted the attention of theAmerican Heart Association, which is conducting an investigationof the utility of CAS as a screening test. Imatron believes thatthe AHA will complete its investigation this fall, according toGrant.

Imatron expects to open three more HeartScan sites by early1996. The company is developing clinics in conjunction with theMethodist Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston;George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, DC;and Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami.

Under the terms of Imatron's renegotiated equipment distributiondeal with Siemens, HeartScan will buy ultrafast CT scanners fromSiemens rather than receive them from Imatron. Siemens marketsImatron's C-150 scanner as Evolution EBT (SCAN 4/12/95).

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