Mednovus puts pedal to metal,develops ferrous-only detectors

April 21, 2004

Stationary, mobile devices address MR safetyA Southern California company has combined the ophthalmic knowledge of its founder with a niche need--ferrous metal detection--to develop products that could improve safety for patients

Stationary, mobile devices address MR safety

A Southern California company has combined the ophthalmic knowledge of its founder with a niche need--ferrous metal detection--to develop products that could improve safety for patients as well as staff working in MR suites, while reducing the danger of accidents that can damage equipment.

Dr. Kemp Massengill, president and CEO of Leucadia-based Mednovus, developed an interest in detecting tiny metal particles lodged in the eye while practicing ophthalmology in the early 1990s. Through various collaborations, including one with bomb detection company Quantum Magnetics and another with physicist Dick McClure, Massengill has led the development of three ferrous detection products: the Safescan Portal 9000, Safescan MR Wand, and Safescan 880i. The first two are aimed at detecting relatively large ferrous objects before they enter the magnetic field of MR scanners; the latter is designed to detect tiny ferrous particles in the eye and orbit.

Massengill and his associates have filed 11 patent applications in connection with the technology. Three have been granted. The company now is recruiting beta sites to work with Mednovus and Dr. Emanuel Kanal, a leading expert on MR safety, to test and, if necessary, refine the Safescan 9000.

The system is a fixed detector designed for installation either at the entrance of an MR suite or in an ancillary room. The Safescan MR Wand operates like security wands used at airports and typically would be placed in an ancillary room. When metal is detected, the systems give an audible signal.

"I envision people going through the portal past the 9000. Then, if something is found, you use the wand to track down where on the body it is," Massengill said.

In developing the portal detector, Mednovus is collaborating with Quantum Magnetic, a security company. It also is helping to finance development of a portal for a competitor, the Canadian Institute for Biodiagnostics. Other companies developing ferrous metal detectors for use in MR suites include ETS-Lindgren (SCAN 1/28/04).

The Safescan 9000 may retail for between $25,000 and $35,000. No price has been established for the wand.

Interest in metal detectors as part of an MR safety program rose after a six-year-old child was killed in July 2001 by a metal oxygen tank erroneously brought into the MR suite of Westchester Medical Centre in Valhalla, NY (SCAN 8/08/2001). Since then, the need for an effective means of detecting potentially harmful objects has only increased.

"Today you have more magnets at higher field strength and techs with less experience, who are not as intimately aware of magnetic field strength issues as their predecessors," said Tobias Gilk, an associate architect with Junk Architects in Kansas City, MO. "The first time you lose tens of thousands of dollars in downtime due to one of these accidents you've more than paid for a unit. They're money in the bank, and if they can help you avoid injuring a patient even once, you are immeasurably ahead of the game. I think ferrous metal detectors are going to be a great asset."