Virtual Colonoscopy

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Stony Brook University President, Shirley Strum Kenny announced today that Siemens Healthcare Sector of Germany has signed a landmark non-exclusive license agreement with the University. The license agreement is for the portfolio of innovations related to performing three-dimensional virtual examination, navigation and visualization, the most common use for which is “virtual colonoscopy.” The fast, safe and cost effective procedure is based on patented diagnostic 3-D imaging software, techniques and a computer system developed by a Stony Brook University research team of computer-scientists and radiologists led by its inventor, Dr. Arie E. Kaufman, a Distinguished Professor and Chairman of the Department of Computer Science. It was first patented in 1996. Dr. Arie Kaufman, Chairman of the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook University, showcases a 3-D image generated by the Virtual Colonoscopy software he invented with a team of computer scientists and radiologists at Stony Brook. 3-D Virtual Colonoscopy was approved for Colon Cancer Screening in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004. This innovative computer graphics technology puts computed tomography (CT) images of the patient’s abdomen together into a high quality 3-D computerized model of the patient’s colon. This allows a radiologist to virtually “fly through” the patient’s colon, from beginning to end, and around all folds, seeing 100 percent of its surface as opposed to the estimated 77 percent with conventional colonoscopy, and thoroughly searching for polyps, the precursor of colon cancer, that are as small as a few millimeters. By contrast, a conventional colonoscopy using a fiber optic endoscope is invasive and expensive, and requires a day of preparation involving harsh laxatives and usually a day for the procedure since the patient must be sedated. A conventional colonoscopy also carries the risk of perforation of the colon wall and even a small risk of death. Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide that claims about 677,000 men and women annually, according to the World Health Organization; more than 130,000 new cases are diagnosed every year in the United States. However, studies show that much more than half of all Americans 50 and older aren't getting colonoscopies, possibly because the procedure is scary, requires sedation and carries a tiny risk of bowel perforation. New data published in the September 18 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine on the efficacy of CT colonographic screening (i.e., virtual colonoscopy screening) indicates that in a study of 2600 asymptomatic adults, 50 years of age or older, CT colonographic screening identified 90% of subjects with adenomas or cancers measuring 10 mm or larger in diameter. According to the authors, these findings augment published data on the role of CT colonography in screening patients with an average risk of colorectal cancer. And, according to a report in the October 28 edition of the Wall Street Journal, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the US Federal agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid, is conducting a review to determine if the cost of virtual colonoscopies should be covered. The article indicated that CMS will complete the review process by February 2009. “The first study of results of virtual colonoscopy paid by insurance showed that only 6.4% of patients required follow up with optical colonoscopy for polyp removal,” said Dr. Kaufmann. “Virtual colonoscopy is therefore poised to become the procedure of choice for mass screening for colonic polyps. If all patients 50 years of age and older will participate in these screening programs, over 92 percent of colorectal cancer will be prevented and more than 600,000 lives could be saved worldwide every year through this early detection,” he said. The procedure takes less than 15 minutes and typically requires the patient to drink a contrast solution, which eliminates the need for a harsh purgative prior to the scanning. The patient, without being sedated and after a small tube is inserted in the rectum to inflate the colon with CO2, lays on his/her back and then stomach while a CT scan takes pictures of the abdomen and pelvis in just several seconds. “Stony Brook’s work on virtual colonoscopy is a great example of how research is and will be the key to economic vitality in New York State,” said James Weyhenmeyer, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Research at the State University of New York. “Stony Brook’s investment in Dr. Kaufman’s work to bring it from the lab to the marketplace serves as a model for SUNY campuses and New York’s leaders.”
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