Medical Device Daily

PARIS – A heavy buyer and user of medical technology, LVL Médical Groupe (Lyon, France) is predicting a 3% fall-off in its rate of growth for 2009, yet the decrease will hardly slow this aggressive provider of in-home care services in France and Germany, with a forecast for 15% growth instead of the 18% realized in 2008.

LVL reported its 2008 sales will hit €114 million ($156 million), up from €97 million ($132 million) in 2007.

The company said profits were down 32% to €7.1 million ($9.7 million) due to ongoing operational costs and stock option charges incurred.

The French business daily newspaper, Les Echos, reported that LVL opened five new home care agencies in Germany in 2008 as part of an aggressive expansion strategy that it plans to continue in 2009.

In June, just ahead of the financial meltdown, LVL raised €60 million in a combination of stock and bond issues and says it finds itself now poised to take advantage of crashing market valuations, according to Les Echos, to continue its acquisition campaign

It is either luck or good planning that management has the capital in hand because LVL, which trades on the Euronext Paris exchange, has not been spared the carnage of the flight of investor confidence in European markets, now trading at under €10 ($13.65), half of its value one year ago.

In September, flush with capital, LVL moved to reinforce its lead position for home-based medical assistance in Germany with the acquisition of the Bavarian company Lynn's Best (Untersteinach/Giessen, Germany), which specializes in providing intensive care at home for children and has grown in 10 years to €7.6 million annually, with profits of 15%.

Germany accounted for 26% of LVL revenues prior to the Lynn's Best acquisition and the opening of the five regional agencies.

In northern Germany, LVL Medical is growing through its subsidiary Bonitas, located near Hamburg, that reported growth of 42% for the first half of 2008, thanks in part to an expansion further north to Schleswig-Holstein with the acquisitions of two "Pflegedienst," or approved providers of home-based outpatient therapies, Ihre Assistenz im Norden and Kira Fiss & G ldenzoph, both located in Kiel.

The company said it expects to accelerate its acquisition campaign, searching for prospects among companies in the range of under €20 million.

Respiratory assistance, IV therapy, nutrition, insulin therapy and home care have been LVL's traditional strengths in France, where the company says that it provides care to more than 37,000 patients each day.

As LVL expands into Germany, the company is emphasizing home nursing and intensive care with services including treatment of chronic respiratory insufficiency, chemotherapy, antibiotic therapy, pain management or managing chronic digestive illnesses, including the home support furnishing such as beds, lifts and wheelchairs.

Software limits damage to the brain

Researchers and neurologists at the Hopital Pitié-Salpêtrière (Paris) have developed an intelligent assistant for reading conventional cranial images to predict the exposure to brain damage for a patient experiencing mini-strokes and then to guide pharmaceutic treatment to reduce the damage.

When an artery in the brain becomes blocked, such as with a transient ischemic attack, the blood supply changes can cause brief neurologic dysfunction that serve as a warning for an approaching stroke.

Using a conventional MRI scan, the neurologists at Pitié-Salpêtrière run the digital data through software called NeurInfarct to identify the ischemic penumbra surrounding the affected artery.

This penumbra is where pharmacologic interventions are most likely to be effective in limiting necrosis of ischemic but still viable cerebral tissue.

Significantly, NeurInfarct does not require the injection of a contrast agent to provide an analysis of the image rendered by MRI.

Strokes are the third-leading cause of death in France and the leading cause of handicaps such as paralysis, speech impediment and vision loss.

In a matter of minutes, NeurInfarct can analyze an MRI image identifying the movement of water molecules, which are greatly diminished at the point of an infarctus and slightly more present in the penumbra.

The resulting analysis assists neurologists in planning a treatment strategy.

NeurInfarct software has been tested on 100 patients and is the subject of an article published in the January issue of Radiology that concludes the software is "at least as good" as methods requiring a contrast agent.

The software was developed by the Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cerebral Imaging of the Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique in cooperation with the neurology department at Pitié-Salpêtrière.