The surprisingly rapid spread of digital breast tomosynthesis, also known as 3-D mammography, may be an unintended—but beneficial—consequence of hospital consolidation.
Digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) is costly, partly because one manufacturer, Hologic, has the U.S. market to itself (although it will likely soon have competition from GE and Siemens, which sell 3-D mammography systems in Europe). A large, consolidated health care system has the means to make the investment, said Rohit Inamdar, senior associate and medical physicist for the Applied Solutions Group at ECRI Institute. But he said the cost-benefit ratio can work for independent practices as well:
Digital breast tomosynthesis is still evolving in many ways. It’s certainly very expensive. It’s the well-capitalized and well-resourced that will be the early adopters. The counterpoint is, if you are a large, independent women’s imaging center, having DBT in your facility may give you a strong marketing tool.
Inamdar was quoted by DOTmed News. ECRI Institute is a nonprofit organization that researches ways of improving patient care.
Marketing was the argument that Lara Hardesty, director of breast imaging for the University of Colorado, used to get approval for buying a 3-D mammography machine. “As a university practice,” she said, “we have a very large number of patients who, once they’re diagnosed with an abnormality, want to come to us for care. But we had a difficult time getting them in for an initial screening.
“If we could be the only ones in town with the technology, we could convince patients to come to us for screening. And we were the only ones in town with it for about a year.”
So, even though 3-D mammography is a pricey new technology that’s not covered by insurance, it has achieved impressive U.S. market penetration, with about 1,100 units installed, according to DOTmed News. “In the U.S., we have commercial systems in all 50 states,” said Jim Culley, senior director of corporate communications at Hologic. “Over four million women in the U.S. will be imaged using the 3-D mammography system, by our estimates.”
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Related CME seminar (up to 25 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): The Breast Imaging and Intervention: A Comprehensive Review