Five big European radiology stories from 2020

February 12, 2021
In many ways, radiology in 2020 was the same in Europe as it was in the U.S. There were lockdowns, scan volumes plummeted, the pandemic never gave up center stage. Despite that, there was no shortage of news across the pond.

Here, we share five of the stories that generated the most interest in our Daily News online and in our free European Newsletter.

Philips begins 10-year strategic partnership in Germany
In October, Royal Philips and German hospital Marienhospital Stuttgart have signed a long-term agreement to boost the hospital’s diagnostic imaging equipment and associated IT systems, digitize the pathology department, and enhance its emergency medicine capabilities.

The new venture will commence with an analysis of the hospital’s current treatment structures and pathways, with the goal of improving costs and safeguarding the hospital’s investment security in all areas.

“Due to the long-term nature of our partnership with Philips, our hospital will not only actively participate in future technological advances in healthcare, but also become a leader,” said Markus Mord, managing director of Marienhospital Stuttgart, in a news release. “It will enable us to offer our patients diagnostic and therapeutic procedures that consistently meet the latest standards.”

The new partnership with Marienhospital Stuttgart will redefine the radiology procedures, processes and IT systems, as well as coordinating equipment renewal and expansion. Under the terms of the agreement, Philips will be responsible for the procurement, installation, maintenance (including updates and upgrades) and servicing of all large radiology equipment.

"I am pleased that, under challenging circumstances, we have been able to execute our plans and return to growth and improved profitability for the Group in the third quarter,” said Philips CEO Frans van Houten.

French researchers develop photon counting CT detector module
In September, France’s technology research institute CEA-Leti developed a novel X-ray photon-counting detector module (PCDM) that has shown promise for improving CT scanning.

Integrated in a CT scanner prototype from Siemens Healthineers for clinical trials, the PCDM was found to increase spatial resolution, reduce X-ray exposure to patients, and decrease image noise and artifacts for better image quality, and to distinguish multiple contrast agents from one another.

"The CT scanner required a very high performing detector in terms of spatial resolution, quantum efficiency, count rate, power consumption, linearity and reliability," CEA-Leti researcher Loick Verger, business development manager in technologies for imaging systems, told HCB News. "The detector performance is the result of material properties, an optimize detector geometry and a specific electronic readout and PCB, by considering the system architecture of the CT. The challenge was enormous, no available detector existed at this time. We started with Siemens from scratch."

Siemens Healthineers approached CEA-Leti about designing, integrating, manufacturing, and testing a new generation of PCDM that would be mature enough to be integrated into an X-ray CT scanner prototype, because of the advantages they offer in imaging.

More than a quarter of CT scanners in Ireland have exceeded end-of-life
At least 15 of the 59 total CT scanners in the Emerald Isle have passed their life expectancy dates but remain in operation, with one at South Tipperary General Hospital still in use despite passing its end of life date seven years ago in 2013.

Dublin’s Mater Hospital also has a scanner that has been out of date since 2016 and 10 others that expired in 2017 but are still being utilized, the Irish Sun reported in July.

"The HSE (Health Service Executive) is aware of the high-risk equipment that requires to be replaced and as consequence has increased the equipment replacement budget to €65m in 2020 to remove the identified unreliable and at risk medical equipment," Ireland's HSE, which heads its public healthcare, told HCB News. "The HSE intends to continue to provide a steady state investment of €65m to the National Equipment Replacement Programme (NERP) into the future to address the backlog of aging medical equipment that currently resides in our front line health services."

Figures from the HSE show that 15 scanners have passed their end of life date and that two more will run out later this year. Eight others are well within their own dates, and the remaining 34 have no end of date information available, according to the Irish Sun.

UK cancer experts say worst fears about patient backlog becoming reality
In June the former head of the cancer program for the World Health Organization (WHO) said the U.K. will require an emergency national response to manage the backlog of cancer cases deferred and delayed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Karol Sikora, chief medical officer of Rutherford Health, says his and his colleagues’ “worst fears” have become a reality, with Great Britain facing a significant build-up of cancer cases as a direct result of the pandemic. He asserts a similar response to the one taken to address COVID-19 is required to prevent a full-blown health crisis in the coming months.

“It remains a real possibility that the coronavirus will claim more lives through cancer than COVID-19 itself,” he said in a statement. “This would be an unimaginable disaster. Almost 300,000 people with suspected cancer symptoms have not been referred for testing and over two million people missed out on screening. The progression of cancers during these delays will impact quality of life and long-term patient survival. Even modest delays can impact on patient survival.”

A report by Cancer Research UK in June revealed that 2.4 million people in Great Britain had cancer screenings, treatments or tests deferred, over a 10 week period.

Finnish researchers designing mobile MR unit that could fit in a van
Researchers in Aalto University in Finland are developing a mobile MR scanner designed for transport in a van rather than a lorry, or trailer.

The aim of the three-year project — which costs more than $830,000 (€750,000) — is to build a lighter, cheaper and mobile solution that would not require specially trained healthcare personnel to handle it.

"There are many important diagnostic problems, which require a fast evaluation of the situation with the patient," said Severi Uusitalo, designer and associate professor of industrial design at Aalto, told HCB News in June. "These include traumas causing internal hemorrhages, bone fractures, and concussions of tissues like muscles and brain. Here high resolution is not actually needed but a rapid evaluation to guide for conclusions on how to proceed with therapy. A Van MR may be driven in the areas of crises like a battlefield, earthquakes or flooding. The high value of the prompt evaluation of the patient for the improved outcomes of therapy may be expected."

While the image quality of the low-field scanner may not be on par with that of a high-field system, the system could have a variety of applications, including diagnosing inflammatory diseases such as pneumonia and maxillary sinusitis, internal bleeding, abscesses and fluid deposition.