U.S. Surgical buys NeoVision to expand breast biopsy presence

October 1, 1997

The advantages of 3-D ultrasound in guiding breast biopsies were enough to convince U.S. Surgical to spend $40 million on the acquisition of privately held NeoVision in a deal completed last month. NeoVision's technology, called Sonopsy, acquires and

The advantages of 3-D ultrasound in guiding breast biopsies were enough to convince U.S. Surgical to spend $40 million on the acquisition of privately held NeoVision in a deal completed last month. NeoVision's technology, called Sonopsy, acquires and reformats ultrasound data into three dimensions to assist in the biopsy of suspicious breast lesions. It will fill out U.S. Surgical's line of interventional products, which includes an x-ray-based stereotactic device, called ABBI, that Lorad supplies to the company.

"Both technologies have their own unique benefits, and we want to be able to offer a range of products," said Steve Rose, director of media relations at U.S. Surgical. "We're making a big commitment in women's health in general and this certainly is an important part of that."

Seattle-based NeoVision developed Sonopsy as an adjunct for x-ray-based mammography in breast biopsy applications. For example, when suspicious tissue is too close to the chest wall, x-ray localization for biopsy may not be adequate. Under such circumstances, ultrasound would be called on to do the job, according to Rose. Another advantage of ultrasound is its ability to distinguish solid from cystic suspicious masses, which is difficult with x-ray-based modalities. Cysts can be aspirated easily, while solid lesions require biopsy.

Sonopsy comprises a 3-D ultrasound scanner, monitor, and patented breast compression device. It is designed to be an improvement over other methods of ultrasound-guided breast biopsy, which require the physician to hold the breast with one hand and perform biopsy with the other. When undergoing a needle biopsy with Sonopsy, the patient sits in a chair and leans slightly forward, placing her head on a padded rest. The physician can use ultrasound to target the lesion, verifying that the biopsy device is positioned correctly, and then guide the intervention to removal of tissue with real-time 3-D images. The Sonopsy procedure can be performed in a physician's office as well as in a hospital, and U.S. Surgical plans to sell the product to both markets.

Last month's acquisition is an outgrowth of a relationship between NeoVision and U.S. Surgical that began last year, when the two companies signed an agreement in which U.S. Surgical adapted ABBI for use with Sonopsy and received marketing rights to Sonopsy devices sold with ABBI (SCAN 10/23/96).

U.S. Surgical considered Sonopsy important enough to purchase, for an undisclosed amount, the assets of DRS Medical System. Mahwah, NJ-based DRS is a research organization that manufactures the ultrasound components used in Sonopsy. While the Sonopsy-related assets will shift to U.S. Surgical's control, DRS will continue as an independent company.

According to Rose, Sonopsy can be used as a stand-alone biopsy device or in conjunction with ABBI. The company has an advanced version of ABBI, called PERC ABBI, in review at the Food and Drug Administration. The major difference between the two biopsy devices is the size of their respective probes. ABBI offers four probes ranging in diameter from 5 to 20 mm, while the new version of the biopsy tool will offer probe sizes from 2 to 5 mm.