A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

National Health Service (NHS) patients should get faster access to high-quality diagnostic tests in the future thanks to a 1 billion procurement unveiled recently by UK Health Secretary John Reid. The new funding should boost NHS's capacity to provide more efficient access MRI, CT and ultrasound scans, according to Reid.

He said: "The NHS has made fantastic progress in tackling waiting times for operations. Thanks to increased investment and improved ways of working, maximum waiting times have been halved from 18 months, only a few years ago, to a maximum of less than nine months now, and an average of a lot less for most people."

And Reid said that the NHS hopes to improve even further on this quicker timeline. "By the end of 2008, we are determined no one will wait longer than 18 weeks for hospital treatment from the time they see their general practitioner, right through to the time of their treatment. To achieve this we must expand our diagnostic service capacity rapidly."

He said the NHS also would attempt to end what he called "hidden" waits. "The time patients wait for diagnostics has not traditionally been counted as part of the waiting time measurement . . . We know that many patients are caught in a 'bottleneck' of waiting for a scan or other diagnostic service, before they are referred for an operation." He called this "worrying and uncertain" and said the new funding "makes a big step towards tackling this 'hidden waiting list.'"

Reid added: "Diagnostic tests do not all have to be done in a hospital. They can often be provided at the family doctor's or even on the high street or other community setting, far more conveniently for patients." He encouraged providers to "think creatively" concerning the best means of delivering services and where they should be located.

"In buying extra capacity from the independent sector, we will significantly increase the NHS-funded diagnostic provision and increase the numbers of expert staff such as radiologists to provide these services for NHS patients, with equal access free at the point of delivery," Reid said.

The Department of Health will invite "expressions of interest" from independent sector providers, estimated at a cost of 2 million per year for the procurement phase.

Last summer the Department of Health completed a deal with Alliance Medical (Oxon, UK) to provide 120,000 scans in mobile MRI scanners. This one deal boosted MRI scanning capacity by 15%. As a result, more than 25,000 patients received MRI scans.

The NHS also noted a drop in wait times in many parts of Britain: in Huddersfield, cut from 38 to eight weeks; in Ipswich, from 30 to five; and in Scarborough, halved from 36 to 18 weeks.

China bone mineral density database

GE Healthcare (Waukesha, Wisconsin) said it has developed the largest bone mineral density reference database in the world in order to measure osteoporosis in the Chinese population. The company said the Chinese reference database provides improved diagnostic confidence for physicians in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, a disease characterized by low bone mass and increased risk of fracture.

The new reference database was presented last month at the International Society for Clinical Densitometry's (West Hartford, Connecticut) annual meeting in New Orleans.

"There are likely more people with osteoporosis in China than the entire population of the U.S.," said Jennie Hanson, president of GE Lunar (also Waukesha), a division of GE Healthcare. "GE's new BMD China reference database is a critical and important step in the world's fight against osteoporosis."

In a landmark study conducted with the Chinese Medical Association, bone density of the spine and hip was measured on GE Lunar densitometers in 11,400 men and women of differing age and weight in six geographically dispersed centers in China.

Those locally derived reference values now will serve as a reference population for interpreting the bone density of the Chinese population, the largest in the world at more than 1.3 billion.

"We are proud to offer the Chinese population such a critical breakthrough in the diagnosis of this debilitating disease," said Hanson.

According to the World Health Organization (Geneva, Switzerland), the worldwide number of hip fractures associated with osteoporosis could rise from 1.7 million in 1990 to 6.3 million by 2050, with the most dramatic rise expected in Asia as this population both grows and ages. It is projected that about half of all osteoporosis-related hip fractures will occur in Asia by the year 2050, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (Lyon, France).

CAD breast MRI boosted at Vienna meeting

Confirma (Kirkland, Washington) reported that an abstract presented at the 2005 European Congress of Radiology in Vienna, Austria, validated that CADstream, computer-aided-detection (CAD) for breast MRI may improve diagnostic accuracy and increase efficiency of breast MRI analysis.

Drs. J.C. Vilanova and J. Barcelo of Clinica Girona (Girona, Spain) compared CADstream to standard software used for MRI analysis, focusing on diagnostic accuracy and efficiency. The study concluded that CADstream may improve diagnostic accuracy and increased efficiency for breast cancer evaluation. The CAD system showed a significant reduction in image artifact, helping the radiologist with more accurate analysis and saving a substantial amount of time during analysis of breast MRI studies.

"Our study shows that CADstream significantly reduces patient movement-related artifact and analysis time, assisting radiologists in more accurately and efficiently interpreting studies," said Vilanova.

CADstream automates data analysis, improving image management and correcting for patient movement, which assists radiologists in the interpretation, standardization and reporting of these data-intensive studies.

CADstream's core automated features include adaptive image registration (2-D/3-D), multiplanar reformatting, subtractions, angiogenesis maps, interactive real-time contrast curves, maximum intensity projections (MIPs) and volume summaries. Its features include a streamlined portfolio for treatment planning, multimodality ready and SureLoc for interventional planning.

Biomicroscope gets CE mark

Paradigm Medical Industries (Salt Lake City) reported receiving the CE mark for a new generation ultrasound biomicroscope (UBM).

Paradigm Medical's chief operating officer, Aziz Mohabbat, said, "We expect to begin product sales in Europe immediately." He added: "The P60 UBM, which received clearance from RWTUV Systems, is a fourth-generation device that is a very sophisticated microprocessor-based, multi-frequency ultrasound biomicroscope that allows users to acquire and view high-resolution images of the anterior segment of the eye."

Paradigm already has the CE mark for its latest version of UBM, the P45 versions of UBM and has generated sales overseas. The P45 and earlier versions also is FDA-approved. The company said that the P60 represents the latest generation of UBM devices and is believed to have better visual clarity and image flexibility than earlier versions.

MSI in more TB testing programs

Medical Services International (MSI; Edmonton, Alberta) said it has been asked to participate in two additional testing programs with its VScan TB test kits. The test programs will take place in Eastern Africa and the Caribbean. The company said it is "very comfortable" that the accuracy of its VScan TB test kit will help in making the tuberculosis testing programs viable.

The company said: "As the accuracy of the VScan TB test kit becomes known through participation in these and other programs and [we] receive regulatory approval for the VScan TB in China, it is reasonable to expect that the demand for the TB test kit will be substantial."

MSI's VScan rapid test kit is a single-use, disposable, accurate, cost effective test for the screening of HIV 1 & 2, hepatitis B & C, tuberculosis, Dengue fever, West Nile virus, syphilis and prostate cancer.