Down the Pike (New Technology)

By Frank P. Nieto

Editor’s Note: Have you ever felt clueless about some of the new medical technologies your clinicians saw at their most recent conference? In this issue, the Journal of Healthcare Contracting launches “Down the Pike,” designed to offer contracting professionals a heads-up on some of the new technologies that may be coming your way.

Proton therapy systems
Proton beams are believed to be superior to X-rays for radiation therapy; however, the high costs associated with proton-beam technology have prohibited it from being used by more providers. Currently, the units require large, dedicated facilities that generally cost over $100 million to build. At this time only six of these facilities exist in the United States, with 25 total worldwide. Madison, Wis.-based TomoTherapy Inc. ( intends to offer a compact, low-cost proton therapy system that could increase access to this cancer treatment by licensing dielectric wall accelerator (DWA) technology created by the Lawrence Livermore (Calif.) National Laboratory and the University of California Davis Cancer Center. TomoTherapy and Lawrence Livermore hope to offer the DWA-based systems for less than $20 million and install them in existing radiation therapy facilities. The first one is expected to be built at the UC Davis Cancer Center.

One incision for laparoscopic gallbladder removal
Surgeons at Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, Pa., used Novare Surgical Systems’ RealHand High Dexterity instruments to perform the first-ever single-port laparoscopic gallbladder removal. The surgery, conducted on a 28-year-old female, was done with a single incision in the patient’s belly button, and it left her with a hidden scar. The RealHand instruments ( are said to be the first full-range-of-motion, hand-held laparoscopic instruments. They mirror the movement of the physician’s hand and allow for complete seven-degree movement. “Using RealHand instrumentation, we are now able to decrease the number of incisions required in routine laparoscopy, as well as do more advanced procedures through the laparoscope,” says Paul G. Curcillo II, M.D., FACS, who performed the surgery at Hahnemann. He adds that surgeons and gynecologists currently performing laparoscopy should be able to learn the new technique easily.

Personal DNA analyzer
Ottawa, Ont.-based Spartan Bioscience Inc. (, launched the world’s first personal DNA analyzer. The Spartan DX real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) DNA analyzer is said to offer unprecedented speed and convenience. The unit, which retails for $14,995, provides results in 30 minutes or less for four samples at a time. Typically, DNA testing requires the use of batched, mainframe-style machines. Spartan Bioscience says the DX changes all that. “In the same way that mainframe computers gave rise to personal computers, mainframe DNA machines are giving rise to personal DNA analyzers,” says company CEO Dr. Paul Lem. The unit is said to be compatible with industry-standard consumables, including reaction tubes and real-time PCR reagents and kits.