IMS – dedicated to breast care
The Italian firm Internazionale Medico Scientifica (IMS) produces highly innovative mammography units under the brand name Giotto. More than 3,500 Giotto systems are now in use in 38 countries, mostly in Europe, America, China and the Far East. Reason enough for European Hospital to visit IMS in Pontecchio Marconi, Bologna.
Back in 1965, Bruno Toniolo founded a company to sell X-ray accessories, conventional radiography and fluoroscopy units to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Having gained invaluable export experience as well as an understanding of the technology and needs of users, by 1980 Toniolo was manufacturing and selling his own range of automatic film processors and X-ray units under the company name IMS.
Ever entrepreneurial, when a US radiologist hinted that a more effective breast examination could be achieved if the radiographer stood face-to-face instead of to the side of a patient, Toniolo perfected the idea by adding a tilting feature to the rotating gantry. This slight-inclination positioning helps the patient to relax her pectorals, enabling the radiographer to pull more breast tissue into the bucky – in a large breast making a difference of up to 2 cm! Thus Giotto, a unique mammography unit, was born.
Entering the white single storey headquarters of IMS headquarters in Bologna confirms the IMS transition from simple vendor to manufacturer. The building houses both factory and an important R&D centre. It was here, for example, that the first amorphous selenium (a-Se) detector was tested under mammography conditions. The first ever clinical trial of the a-Se detector followed in the Breast Department at Maggiore Hospital, a public instituation and close science partner of IMS.
In 1998, IMS and Canadian manufacturer Anrad (at that time named Noranda) launched the first selenium-based panel in a mammo unit. In Giotto, a-Se detector technology directly converts X‐ray into digital signals to be processed in seconds into high quality images. ‘The reading time is a little bit less than one image per second, but Anrad is developing an even faster detector for us, to provide three images per second,’ Achille Albanese disclosed.
In 2003, the IMS Giotto IMAGE SD pioneered Full Field Digital Mammography (FFDM) in Europe. The technique has improved sensitivity, particularly in the dense breast. A year later, IMS became the first manufacturer worldwide to use FFDM for stereotactic biopsy examinations. Additionally, IMS has always concentrated efforts on dose reduction: the introduction of a combination of Tungsten anode tube with first rhodium and now silver filter, significantly decreases radiation dose up to 50%.
Which market might prove the greatest for the IMS FFDM systems? ‘Definitely the USA, because it represents more than 50% of the world’s digital radiology market,’ Achille Albanese affirmed. ‘CR systems are not approved by the FDA, with the exception of a Japanese manufacturer. So, while the FFDM market in Europe and the rest of the world has been shared in the last five years between digital and analogue mammography, CR in mammo is practically unknown in the States. China is another growing market for us – we’re already the number two seller in DR systems there.’
New digital technologies are also in the works at the IMS, including two R&D projects on dual energy and contrast enhanced digital mammography. The company’s focus definitely remains on digital breast tomosynthesis: ‘The starting shot for our first multicentre European clinical trial on tomosynthesis will be this autumn,’ said Achille Albanese. ‘Again, you can count on it that our tomosynthesis technology will be optimised especially for breast care.’
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