A Medical Device Daily

The popularity of minimally invasive surgery is seen as boosting the growth prospects in Europe for enabling technologies such as robot-assisted surgery (RAS) and image-guided surgery (IGS), according to a report by global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan (F&S; London).

Noting that IGS and RAS support increased accuracy levels and improved surgical outcomes, Frost & Sullivan research analyst Kavitha Ravikumar added that “Assertive marketing and publicity campaigns, the prestige perceived in utilizing the latest technology for surgery, together with anticipated cost-efficiencies and streamlining of procedures, are set to provide a further boost to market expansion.”

Use of 3-D navigation, with images capable of being altered to provide greater detail, allows for higher accuracy levels on the part of surgeons. Other improved outcomes include shorter operation times, minimal invasion into the body and quicker recovery time.

Ravikumar said superior surgical outcomes, the ability to go deeper and with more precision, overall technology advancements and an ongoing increase in applications are expected to be key in promoting demand for image-guided surgery.

Such smaller, less invasive and more precise surgeries are likely to benefit patients unable to withstand major surgeries, she said. “At the same time, robotic assistants are likely to aid in the performance of steadier surgical techniques, decrease surgery times, guide more precise procedures and permit staff to carry out more dynamic tasks.”

Currently, IGS is being deployed in neurological, orthopedic, ENT surgeries, dental applications such as oral implantology and other emerging applications including maxillo-facial surgery. Robotic applications are presently designed for use in surgical procedures such as general, cardiac, orthopaedic and brain.

Improved precision levels in surgery are expected to be central to the popularity of RAS, Ravikumar said. “The ability to build on a surgeon’s skill even while reducing stress levels is likely to be key to its increasing uptake.” She cited such other advantages as freeing up medical personnel for more productive jobs and compensating for staff shortages by performing peripheral tasks.

Potential expansion into tele-surgery and simulated learning and extending the reach to other procedures such as endoscopies are also likely to support adoption rates, F&S said.

The report noted that at present, image guidance is more popular than robotic assistants, as the surgeon controls and performs the operation while using navigation to minimize errors and increase precision. Accordingly, the European IGS market was estimated at $93.6 million in 2004, with a compound annual growth rate of 13.9% projected over 2004-2008. The orthopedic segment in image-guided surgery is currently the fastest-growing and most promising.

The $18 million European robotic-assisted surgery market is forecast to grow at a more sedate rate of 3.6% from 2004 to 2008.

One of the key deterrents to market growth, Ravikumar said, is likely to be the capital equipment costs. Hospitals are looking for free upgrades as they become available and open platforms that enable them to integrate products from different companies into the system.

“Further technological improvements, greater integration along with more open and flexible platforms are likely to broaden the number of application areas, thereby spurring market growth,” she said.

“Manufacturers need to concentrate on surgical procedures where the product provides maximum benefit as well as clearly demonstrate how these products provide value for money in terms of investment versus outcome,” Ravikumar said.

Zeiss sells uHTS business to Evotec

Evotec Technologies (ET; Hamburg, Germany), a supplier of tools and technologies for life sciences and pharmaceutical drug discovery, reported the acquisition of the ultra-high-throughput system (uHTS) business from Carl Zeiss AG (Oberkochen, Germany). As part of the transaction, ET received the exclusive rights to build and commercialize the uHTS product portfolio. including the plate:vision reader, the plate:explorer uHTS system and the plate:works software.

ET also assumed the service responsibility for the installed base of these Zeiss instruments. Together with its own EVOscreen systems Evotec Technologies said it now supports users of more than 20 uHTS systems worldwide.

As part of the deal, the company transferred a small number of Zeiss employees, saying they would strengthen its service and application team both in Europe and the U.S.

“Zeiss’ high-quality uHTS products broaden our offering in an ideal manner,” said Dr. Carsten Claussen, CEO at Evotec CEO. “We already have experience with the plate:vision reader that has been integrated into some of our EVOscreen Mark III systems and very [is] well perceived by customers.”

He said the Zeiss uHTS product line “is a natural complement to our own EVOscreen system and our Clarina II and Opera readers that are used to confocally measure biochemical and cellular assays, respectively.”

MIST trial results due at EuroPCR

NMT Medical (Boston), a developer of minimally invasive solutions for the treatment of cardiac sources of migraine headaches, stroke and other potential brain attacks, said that data from its MIST (Migraine Intervention with STARFlex Technology) study will be presented at the EuroPCR meeting in Paris later this month.

MIST is the first prospective, randomized, controlled study to evaluate the potential relationship between PFO (patent foramen ovale), a common structural heart defect, and certain migraine headaches. Data on the incidence of PFO observed in the MIST study will be presented by Peter Wilmshurst, MD, consultant cardiologist at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (Shrewsbury, UK) at a late-breaking trials session on the first day of EuroPCR, May 24.

The MIST study also is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of NMT’s STARFlex implant technology in the treatment of these headaches. MIST was approved in the UK in November 2004 and enrollment was initiated in January, with patients to be followed for six months.

Wilmshurst is co-primary investigator on the MIST study with Andrew Dowson, MD, director of the King’s Headache Service at Kings College Hospital (London). Wilmshurst was first to observe and publish the potential PFO/ migraine connection while evaluating deep-water divers experiencing decompression illness.

The potential PFO/migraine connection received recent attention in peer-reviewed articles published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and Neurology.