New digital mammo system improves FOV, patient comfort

December 3, 2004

U.S. mammographers considering a full-field digital system have a new choice: Siemens' Mammomat Novation DR. Shown as a work-in-progress at last year's RSNA meeting, the product was showcased this year as a commercial product, having received FDA approval in August.

U.S. mammographers considering a full-field digital system have a new choice: Siemens' Mammomat Novation DR. Shown as a work-in-progress at last year's RSNA meeting, the product was showcased this year as a commercial product, having received FDA approval in August.

Fischer Imaging, Hologic, and GE Healthcare beat Siemens to the market. But the Novation DR's exceptional flexibility may give it an edge over the competition. The system supports screening and diagnostic mammography and stereotactic biopsy.

"It encompasses the whole range of breast imaging services," said Barbara Marshall, director of the Battlefield Imaging Center in Rossville, GA, which began using the product in September.

Novation's MammoReport Plus two-panel dedicated workstation can display both current and prior mammograms, allowing operators to switch studies in less than a second. In concert with the dedicated workstation, Novation DR can easily handle 40 patient exams per day, according to Siemens. Sites in Europe, where it has been sold since January, report daily throughput of up to 80 patients.

The digital detector, at 24 x 29 cm, is among the largest available, and it can image almost all breast sizes in a single exposure. But despite its advantage in coverage, the selenium-based detector, supplied by Hologic, may present a challenge to technologists, who must keep the breast centered in the x-ray beam. A specially designed paddle that assists in placement and improves patient comfort addresses this issue.

"In the past, to compress the entire breast, we would have to put a lot of pressure on the part of the breast closest to the chest wall," Marshall said. "This paddle actually evens out the compression throughout the breast, so it is not as painful."

Industry executives report growing demand for full-field digital mammography systems, with 400 units sold last year in the U.S. and an expected 500 this year. Novation DR will receive a healthy share of the pie through sales to new customers and the company's installed base of Mammomat 3000 Nova users, said Don Alvarez, director of Siemens Women's Health.

Although the major difference between the Nova and Novation DR is the film bucky versus the digital detector, owners of film-based units will probably not receive field upgrades to digital, Alvarez said. Rather, those who want digital mammography will trade in their film-based units for newly minted Novation DRs.