Olympus America (Center Valley, Pennsylvania) is offering physicians the best of both worlds with the launch of its EU-ME1 ultrasound. The device, which actually received FDA approval last year, can be used with both mechanical and electronic processors.

"In essence, physicians could get a better handle on diagnosing gastrointestinal and pulmonary disease in a minimally invasive way and a short amount of time," Frank Klosterman, marketing director for Olympus America, told Diagnostics & Imaging Week.

Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) combine endoscopy and ultrasound in order to obtain what the company is calling accurate, high-resolution images and information about the digestive and bronchial tracts and the surrounding tissue and organs.

By guiding an endoscope with an ultrasound transducer at its tip, sound beyond the range of human hearing is emitted within body cavities and creates images of the targeted areas.

EBUS, one of the most effective methods for diagnosing and staging lung cancer, offers a non-surgical alternative to traditional procedures that examine the chest. Olympus was the first to introduce EBUS bronchoscopes with aspiration needles specifically designed for diagnosing biopsies and staging lung cancer in real-time with ultrasound. This technology is now compatible with Olympus' EU-ME1.

The company added that the applications for EUS and EBUS have continued to expand and are now used to assess several types of cancer.

With EU-ME1, physicians now can inject pain medication from inside the body of patients with pancreatic cancer or chronic pancreatitis without damaging surrounding tissues. The company is exploring this technique as a way to deliver cancer-fighting agents to malignant tumors.

"EU-ME1 was developed in-house by Olympus," Klosterman said. "It's the result of a project that lasted close to seven years. We wanted to develop a compact pulmonary and [GI] device at a very reasonable price."

Although the company did not give a specific price point for the new ultrasound device, Klosterman said it costs about half as much as ultrasounds now in today's market.

He added that price was definitely something the company was looking at while designing the device and did so, so it could reach more community hospitals and healthcare outlets.

"The EU-ME1 provides a means of sampling lymph nodes and masses more systematically than conventional blind methods and allows the physician to more accurately diagnose and determine treatment for various pulmonary diseases," said Dr. William Krimsky, director of the Center for Interventional Pulmonology at Franklin Square Hospital Center (Baltimore).

Olympus' EU-ME1 will be available for distribution in the U.S. in early March. The company will file for CE-mark approval later.

Most recently Olympus was involved in new study suggests that the aging U.S. population and the increased colorectal cancer screening rates will overwhelm the supply of gasteroenterologists (GIs), impacting the country's ability to provide adequate screening and treatment of colorectal cancer.

The company teamed with The Lewin Group (Washington) for the study, which found that the U.S. is facing a shortage of GIs that will total at least 1,050 of these specialty physicians by 2020. Olympus says it plans to advocate for additional federally funded GI fellowships to help close the gap.

Olympus combined parts of two proprietary simulation models it had developed – a national colorectal screening model and a physician supply and demand model – to arrive at its GI workforce and CRC screening projections.

Olympus Corp. (Tokyo) is a leading global precision technology developer, creating opto-digital solutions in healthcare, life science and consumer electronics products.

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