MR center firm enters breast biopsy business

April 22, 1992

A new slant to outpatient imaging services may be in the offing:combination mammography screening and minimally invasive needlebiopsy centers. Breast-screening-only centers never gained much momentum, largelybecause of the low level of reimbursement

A new slant to outpatient imaging services may be in the offing:combination mammography screening and minimally invasive needlebiopsy centers.

Breast-screening-only centers never gained much momentum, largelybecause of the low level of reimbursement for mammography screeningprocedures. Screening in combination with needle biopsy, however,could make for a viable service business, according to LeonardF. Vernon, president and CEO of Imaging Management Associates.

IMA, based in Wilmington, DE, signed an $800,000 purchase agreementwith Fischer Imaging this month for four Mammotest stereotacticbiopsy tables, along with associated service and training. Theunits will be placed in IMA centers devoted to both mammographyscreening and biopsies. This will mark the first installationsof Mammotest outside a hospital setting, Vernon said.

Up to now, IMA has concentrated on operating MRI centers witha focus on low-field imaging (SCAN 1/16/91). The firm plans tomove rapidly into the breast imaging/biopsy center business, however.Two New Jersey centers--in Saddle Brook and Cherry Hill--are scheduledto open in June, Vernon said.

IMA hopes to open two more breast centers in Florida over thenext several months. A tentative agreement has also been workedout with Fischer for the purchase of four additional Mammotestsystems, perhaps by the end of the year, he said.

Provision of needle biopsy services appears to be a win/win/winsituation, Vernon said. Patients benefit by avoiding traumaticand potentially disfiguring surgical biopsy procedures. Insurancecompanies pay $1000 or less for needle biopsies, compared to asmuch as $3000 for surgical procedures. And service providers canbalance low-margin breast screening with more profitable biopsies.

Of an estimated 500,000 to 1 million breast biopsies performedannually in the U.S., only 7000 involved stereotactic-guided needlebiopsy, he said.

Because this procedure can be performed relatively quicklyon an outpatient basis, more women may be encouraged to go forscreening and possible follow-up biopsy, Vernon said. One to threeof every 10 patients who have mammograms require some form ofbiopsy, according to American Cancer Society statistics.

"Of those women who have biopsies, only 5% prove to bepositive. What you are doing is mutilating and scarring a lotof women who really don't have to be. Nonetheless, they do requirethe biopsy because the question (of a potential tumor) remains.This will totally eliminate that problem," he said.

IMA will not only perform biopsies for patients screened atits own centers, Vernon said. The firm plans to actively marketthe procedure to surgeons as well as ob/gyns and family practitioners.

"This takes away the anxiety period on those questionablemammograms, where a patient is told to come back in six monthsand let's see. You don't have to do that anymore. With stereotacticbiopsies, a patient can return to work on the same day with nogeneral anesthesia, no scarring and no pain," he said.

While IMA is aware of Fischer's patent infringement suit againststereotactic biopsy competitor Lorad (SCAN 4/8/92), this actionwas not a factor in the firm's decision to opt for Mammotest.IMA was impressed primarily with the amount of clinical work andtesting that has been performed with the Fischer system, he said.