U.S. federal agencies awarded by GE for groundbreaking role in digital imaging technology

Washington 04 April 2000United States lawmakers, Administration officials, and the leading health organisations have previewed on Capitol Hill new breakthrough digital mammography imaging technology which is ushering in a new era in breast cancer detection. GE Medical Systems, which has developed the innovative technology in partnership with numerous federal agencies, recognised the contributions of the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Commerce for their pioneering contributions to digital imaging technology, presenting each with the GE Partner's in Vision Award.


Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, who received an award on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Cancer Institute (NCI), joined with Members of Congress and breast health experts for a briefing on GE's new Senographe 2000D mammography system which was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in January. GE President and CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt praised the contributions of GE's federal partners in supporting the early research and development of digital mammography imaging technology. "We recognise and pay tribute to our Washington partners who have believed in the powerful possibilities this innovative technology has to offer the world", stated Mr. Immelt. "The development of this lifesaving technology is due to the collaborative efforts of these pioneers."

Mr. Immelt presented the GE Partners in Vision Award to Secretary Shalala for NCI; Wanda K. Jones, Director of the Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health; Dr. Jane Alexander, Deputy Director of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); Capt. Jerry Thomas, MSc, U.S. Navy, Chief of Radiological Physics, Dept. of Radiology/Nuclear Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS); Major Greg Mogel, Deputy Director, Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command; and Dr. Gerald Ceasar, Programme Manager, Electronics and Photonics Office, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Advanced Technology Programme. Mr. Immelt equally presented a GE Partners in Vision Award to Nancy Brinker, who is founding chair of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

GE's federal partners have played significant roles in the development of digital mammography technology. DARPA was involved in the early tests to demonstrate the feasibility of producing a solid state digital x-ray panel. Its researchers recognised the potential for direct digital x-ray as an enabling technology to propel the world of x-ray imaging into the digital information age. The National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, received one of the pre-production "feasibility prototypes" of the Senographe 2000D which helped pinpoint and address the final issues prior to entering production. Some of the earliest clinical studies were performed on this machine. The National Naval Medical Center is one of 20 locations around the world which is utilising GE Senographe 2000D digital technology. The Navy also oversees research activities on one of the first production units at the University of South Florida.

In addition the U.S. Army has partnered with GE Medical Systems on several projects involving digital x-ray, including the Mobile Breast Care Center project. Directed by the Army, the Mobile Center is a demonstration vehicle which incorporates digital imaging technology, remote consultation, and education in a mobile van. The project demonstrates not only the ability to increase accessibility to under-served populations, but also that electronic imaging and remote consultations can reduce the number of call backs and associated anxiety. NCI helped to accelerate the introduction of digital x-ray into mammography through its funding of a multi-institutional research programme. Comprised of the nation's leading mammography researchers and clinicians, the programme demonstrated the technology's possibilities in digitally-enabled applications, such as computer-aided diagnosis, image processing and tele-mammography.

The NIST Advanced Technology Programme, which seeks to accelerate the development of innovative technologies for broad national benefit through partnership such as the one with GE, provided funds for the development of a new manufacturing process that offers the potential to significantly reduce the cost to manufacture digital x-ray panels. This lower cost panel could open the door to newer, more price-sensitive applications. The Senographe 2000D Mammography System differs from conventional systems in that it has digital capabilities and two important features. These are the acquisition workstation that displays a high quality image within ten seconds after an exposure, providing the technologist with quick verification of correct patient positioning; and the review workstation that features a wide range of imaging enhancing and magnification tools.

The Senographe features GE's Revolution digital detector, the industry's first full-field, flat panel amorphous silicon detector. The Revolution detector delivers the medical industry's best combination of image quality and dose efficiency. "The windowing and electronic zoom capabilities of this new digital technology carries the promise of saving lives by improving the early diagnosis of breast cancer", stated Dr. Karina Bukhanov, Head of the Division of Breast Imaging, Joint Department of Imaging University, Health Network, Mount Sinai Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto. Of the more than 32.5 million mammograms performed annually in the United States, current technology misses some 15.000 to 45.000 cases. This new technology aims to reduce those numbers, according to Dr. Bukhanov.

Based on research studies and early clinical experience around the world, the GE Senographe offers better visibility of the breast, especially near the skin line, the chest wall, and in women with dense breast tissue. Exams take less than half the time of traditional film-based mammograms, and the ability to magnify and manipulate images eliminates many of the call backs necessary with traditional mammography systems. The Revolution detector and related technologies equally have created novel methods for health care providers to process, view and manage medical images, like the advancement of telemedicine, more effective storage of patient images and a more efficient means of handling and recording patient information.

"This innovative technology represents the biggest breakthrough in mammography in more than 20 years", stated U.S. Senator Connie Mack. Mack, whose wife Priscilla is a breast cancer survivor and advocate, commented that early detection saved Priscilla's life, and that these new life-saving systems are a powerful tool for helping doctors better detect and diagnose breast cancer. GE currently has Senographe 2000D equipment installed at twenty locations around the world including Bethesda based National Naval Medical Center. GE Medical expects to have nearly 200 GE Senographe systems installed worldwide by the end of this year. GE Medical Systems is a $7 billion global leader in medical information and technology.

Its offerings include networking and productivity tools, patient monitoring devices, health care information systems, conventional and digital X-ray, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance (MR), ultrasound, positron emission tomography, and nuclear medicine. Additional information on the Senographe 2000D system is available in the VMW April 2000 article Breast cancer and heart disease better diagnosed with GE Medical's new digital imaging technology.

Leslie Versweyveld

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