Viatronix converts publicity into strong product sales

Virtual colonoscopy catches on as credibility risesLess than two months after the RSNA meeting, Viatronix has leveraged the media attention it received there and the resulting acceptance of virtual colonoscopy to report a surge in

Virtual colonoscopy catches on as credibility rises

Less than two months after the RSNA meeting, Viatronix has leveraged the media attention it received there and the resulting acceptance of virtual colonoscopy to report a surge in the sale of its Viatronix V3D-Colon colonoscopy product.

The buzz began Dec. 2 when meeting attendees awoke to read in their morning newspapers, including a page-one story in USA Today, that a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine had found virtual colonoscopy as effective as conventional colonoscopy in screening healthy adults for colon cancer. The study, which had been presented in mid-October at the International Symposium on Virtual Colonoscopy in Boston, was performed using Viatronix technology.

"We have received a tremendous number of direct calls from patients seeking information and referrals," said Frank Dachille, Ph.D., associate director of research and development for the Stony Brook, NY, company. "Many of our customers reported a tripling in the number of procedures performed."

The FDA cleared the company's first colon product, the Viatronix Visualization System (VVS), for marketing in late 2000. It was followed two years later by the Viatronix V3D-Colon, Version 1.1, which screened for polyps, masses, cancers, and lesions. Marketing for the latest product, which includes its Version 1.3 software, began in June.

Version 1.3 improved the performance of colon and centerline recognition in the most difficult scans and introduced a new feature called supine-prone registration. This technology uses artificial intelligence to match every point in the supine scan with the corresponding location in the prone scan. The 3D correlation allows users to immediately jump to the same 3D viewpoint in either scan or view them side by side.

"This is the only tool developed from the ground up specifically to analyze a colon for polyps and other anomalies," Dachille said. "Every other package on the market was designed as an extension of an existing system that was built for some other visualization task. With this advantage in mind, we were able to fully optimize the workflow, efficiency, and throughput of the entire system."

Other features include fully automatic extraction of the colon, hands-free guided navigation from end to end, automatic electronic cleansing of residual stool puddles, and real-time, true volume rendering. Because of these and other capabilities, the Viatronix product was used exclusively for the high-profile colonoscopy study, the largest one to date, Dachille said.

More than 60 Viatronix systems have been sold, and the number is growing rapidly, he said. The system sells for $85,000 to $145,000. Marketing efforts are directed toward radiology and gastrointestinal practices, hospitals, and imaging centers. The company's plan is to sell directly to physicians through trade shows, trade magazines, scientific presentations and publications, seminars, and clinical trials or indirectly through distributors and other third parties.

"We are now at the point in which the single-lane road opens up into a highway, and the next exit is the interstate of insurance reimbursement," Dachille said. "Overall, it seems like this is the turning point in the freeway to acceptance."