November 30, 2017

The e-Magazine About Medical Technology Innovation


Artificial Intelligence in the Spotlight

Pediatric Bone Challenge: Boning Up

3D Printing Pioneer

The Smart Magazine About Medical Technology Innovations

MEDICA & RSNA Special Issue

This new edition explores two major medical trade shows that marked the end of the year: MEDICA, held in Düsseldorf from November 13-16, and the RSNA conference in Chicago from Nov 26-Dec 1.

Artificial intelligence with ever more sophisticated algorithms was a key topic at both events. Another focus was the increased use of 3D printing in healthcare. We’re also offering you a taste of some of the most innovative products presented at the fairs, including a non-invasive treatment for benign tumors, a virtual reality massage chair and an easy-to-use blood test that indicates risks for stomach cancer.


Artificial Intelligence
AI can be trained to identify microcalcifications in the breast or small nodules in the lung.
Artificial intelligence was a key topic at MEDICA and RSNA this year (iStock)

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Artificial intelligence (AI) was a key topic at both MEDICA and the RSNA conference this year. But what are its applications in healthcare in general and radiology in particular? And what are the barriers? Dr. Michael Forsting, director of the Institute of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology and Neuroradiology at...

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Artificial Intelligence
These algorithms are becoming more and more sophisticated.
Develop an algorithm for determining bone age from pediatric hand radiographs (Courtesy of RSNA)


The RSNA‘s most recent challenge highlights the potential of machine learning in radiology. The goal? To develop an algorithm for accurately determining bone age from pediatric hand radiographs.


This year’s annual RSNA meeting focused on how artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) can aid radiologists and other imaging professionals. In this context, the society’s high-profile Pediatric Bone Age Challenge ran from August to October under the auspices of the group’s Radiology Informatics Committee (RIC). Keenly contested, the challenge called on participants to develop an algorithm for accurately determining bone age using X-rays of children’s hands.

The bone age of a child indicates the level of biological and skeletal maturity, and is typically used in the evaluation of endocrine and metabolic disorders.

“The participating teams were judged by how well their algorithm-derived bone age evaluations matched the evaluations of expert human observers,” explained leading radiologist Dr. Adam Flanders, chairman of the RIC. “The results were both surprising and exciting.”

Will Radiologists Follow the Dodo?

The challenge’s top 20 algorithmic results surpassed the accuracy of all previous evaluations of this type.

“We’re now talking accuracy to within one hundredth of one percent of the human evaluations.”

“These algorithms are becoming more and more sophisticated,” said Flanders. “We’re now talking accuracy to within one hundredth of one percent of the human evaluations.” Such results make it clear that computer-aided radiological diagnosis will soon incorporate hugely complex and incredibly accurate ML algorithms. Some fear this could make radiologists obsolete.

But Dr. Flanders believes such fears are unfounded. “This technology is not about replacing humans, but helping radiologists do their job more efficiently. ML-empowered devices could be hugely effective tools for precision medicine. By saving time and by allowing radiologists to focus on doing other things better, they could raise the bar for the entire discipline.”

What You Can’t See…

In fact, radiological algorithms simply compare image pixels. By doing so logically and mathematically, they can see things that are imperceptible to humans. “They can see trends, relationships that we might miss,” says Flanders.

Algorithms may also help diagnose problems in parts of the world where there is no access to a radiologist. “Take the villages of sub-Saharan Africa,” says Flanders. “It is here that a reliable, portable, networked algorithm-based device could be used as a life-changing first step in diagnosis.”

The challenge’s top 20 algorithmic results surpassed the accuracy of all previous evaluations of this type (Courtesy of RSNA)

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  • Medisana's virtual reality massage chair (Courtesy of Medisana)

    Medisana‘s virtual reality massage chair was a highlight of the 2017 MEDICA trade fair. The innovative product is aimed at individual consumers and healthcare professionals.


    According to Medisana, virtual reality (VR) dates back to the first flight simulator in 1920. A century later, the technology is found in many healthcare applications, from pain reduction to surgical planning using real-world interactions. And that’s exactly what the VR massage chair is based on.

    “It combines a massage chair with a VR system, creating a state of deeper immersion. It incorporates visual and audio media such as 360° videos of cities or beautiful environments, as well as fantastic, never-before-seen computer-generated views,” explained Anja Schimmelpfennig, Medisana marketing director. The main goal is to let the user dive into a virtual world, isolating him/her from surrounding sources of stress and anxiety.

    Medisana provides both the chair and the headset, into which the user places his/her smartphone. A free app delivers the visual and audio contents. It instructs the massage chair to execute a program individually designed for each VR experience. The app communicates with the chair via a wireless Bluetooth interface.

    Combining massage and virtual reality (Courtesy of Medisana)

    The chair provides different types of massage—Shiatsu and tapping in both the back and the seat, and rolling and vibration massage in the seat. There is also an optional heat function.

    A New Level of Massage Intensity

    “This combination of multiple technologies supported by an online platform is definitely something never seen before,” emphasized Schimmelpfennig. She even suggested this constitutes a “revolution” in massage. “By successfully separating the user from outside influences, it enhances the positive, relaxing and recreational potential of a massage.”

    This could offer consumers more ways to reach a new level of massage intensity. “We believe that we can dramatically enhance the user experience of today’s standard massage devices,” added Schimmelpfennig.

    While the product is mainly intended for individual consumers, the technology provides a way to implement VR and massage in the healthcare environment. Medisana claimed that the numerous possible applications could help treat “patients suffering from stress and anxiety, […] patients with dementia or undergoing radiation and chemo therapy, and many other purposes.”

    Read more about Massage chairs on MedicalExpo website.

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    Atrophic gastritis, a risk factor for stomach cancer (Courtesy of St Anthony)


    Another interesting innovation presented at MEDICA was the GastroPanel quick test. This diagnostic blood test provides valuable information on stomach conditions almost immediately, and can predict risks for stomach cancer.


    “The GastroPanel quick test is a unique combination of four biomarkers. You can get a lot of information about the condition of the stomach which otherwise would be very difficult to obtain,” explained Ilari Patrakka in an interview with MedicalExpo e-magazine. Patrakka is marketing and sales director at BIOHIT Healthcare, the Finnish manufacturer.

    The test helps diagnose Helicobacter pylori infection. More importantly, it identifies people with atrophic gastritis, a risk factor for stomach cancer. “It’s a real screening test for the risk of stomach cancer,” said Patrakka. Several long-term studies consistently show that these risk factors are highly reliable predictors of gastric cancer, even 15 years before onset.

    The test also estimates the risk of developing vitamin B12 and micronutrient deficiency. A normal test result indicates that your stomach is basically healthy, suggesting that the gastric symptoms might be functional or related to other causes.

    Over 90% Accuracy

    “The test has shown to be very accurate—over 90%,” continued Patrakka.

    The GastroPanel quick test (Courtesy of MEDICA)

    In addition, the test is very easy to use. It can be performed during a single clinical visit using a drop of blood from the finger. Results are available in just 15 minutes. Patrakka said that this saves costs and unnecessary clinical appointments, as well as speeding referrals for further examination and treatment.

    “It can be used by general practitioners in the doctor’s office. It really is a point-of-care tool,” he added. It also could be used in the field in developing countries, where Helicobacter pylori infection seems to be more prevalent. According to the Mayo Clinic, these bacteria may be passed from person to person through direct contact with saliva, vomit or fecal matter. They also may be spread through contaminated food or water. Risk factors for H. pylori infection are related to living conditions during childhood—a crowded home, lack of a reliable supply of clean water, living in a developing country or living with someone with an H. pylori infection.

    “GastroPanel quick test will be available in Europe as soon as the CE IVD certification process is completed,” said Pattraka.



    Dimitri Dubuisson

    Journalist for 12 years, Dimitri Dubuisson is based in Brussels and covers mainly medical, health and social topics.

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    Hermine Donceel

    Hermine Donceel is a Brussels-based freelance journalist. She has lived in Southeast Asia for ten years, and has covered public health and environment, nutrition and climate change.

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    Michael Halpern

    Michael Halpern is a US-born and bred writer with experience in radio. He has lived in southern France for 15 years. Michael is the copy editor of MedicalExpo e-magazine.

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    Daniel Allen

    Daniel Allen is a writer and a photographer. His work has been featured in numerous publications, including CNN, BBC, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, National Geographic Traveller, Discovery Channel.

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    Celia Sampol

    Celia Sampol has been a journalist for 15 years. She worked in Brussels and Washington for national medias (Agence France Presse, Liberation). She’s now the editor-in-chief of MedicalExpo e-magazine.

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