Developing products that enable the most accurate imaging results – and that protect imaging panels from damage – Clear Image Devices (CiD) was the brainchild of product engineer John Stinson in 2005. Medical Imaging Technology catches up with the founder and CEO to hear about inspiration for new products and why CiD is the imaging technologist’s answer to the challenge of optimal patient positioning for X-ray and ultrasound imaging.

You recently launched a new product, the Bucky Protector. How is this applied, and how did you develop it?

John Stinson: It is a thin polycarbonate sheet (bulletproof glass) that is placed over the front of the bucky using velcro to protect it from damage during X-ray operations. The idea came from several of our customers whose bucky panels have been damaged by accidental contact with other equipment in the X-ray room. Early customer feedback indicates that this product is a very cost-effective means of avoiding this type of damage. Clear Image Devices (CiD) hopes the market will find this product very valuable.

Many of CiD’s most popular products have recently enjoyed a rapid increase in sales. What has fuelled this?

The company’s popular step platforms are used to obtain lateral weight-bearing X-rays of the knees, feet, ankles and lower legs. CiD’s DR (digital radiography) panel protectors are used for AP-view standing-feet X-ray images. That products have enjoyed remarkable growth in 2015 and 2016 is due to two factors.

First, orthopaedic practices are increasingly demanding weight-bearing images of legs to diagnose a variety of knee, ankle and foot issues. Second, many of the DR Panel manufacturers have recognised the value of offering a panel protector with the sale of each DR panel, as doing so eliminates one of the major causes of panel-damage. OEM sales have therefore strengthened in the last several years.

Are the same reasons behind the growth in sales of your ultrasound steps?

This has been primarily due to the increase in the number of patients seeking treatment for varicose veins. Over recent years, there have been a number of advances in the treatment of varicose veins that make the newer procedures much less invasive, and more effective.

Before these can proceed, the veins in the legs must be examined using an ultrasound imaging system, with the patient in a standing position. This can take as long as 20 minutes a leg, requiring the patient to stand for extended periods of time.

CiD’s ultrasound exam steps, with handles on left and right, help patients stand more comfortably for that period, and raise them to a workable exam height. The sonographer can then safely perform the exam in a comfortable seated, ergonomically sound position.

How did this product come about?

I received treatment for varicose veins in 2011. I had to stand on a step with no railing and had to steady myself on the wall, while the sonographer had to kneel on the floor at times to perform the exam. Realising that there was a much better solution, I contacted several vein clinics and asked if they would like to test a prototype for this device.

Three prototypes were designed and built, then tested in three different clinics for 60 days. At the conclusion of this study, CiD had a very good design and was confident of its effectiveness for the comfort and stability of the patient and the sonographer.

The U-arm Step is designed to provide high-quality images for weight-bearing lateral and AP foot images. How was the device designed?

The design for this product was greatly influenced by one of our OEM partners, a manufacturer of U-arm systems, who asked us to build this product for their specific device. We interviewed several different makers of U-arm systems to make sure it would work with most of the systems offered.

The U-Arm Step platform broadens the use of these systems by enabling them to collect weight-bearing lateral and AP images of the feet and lower legs, in addition to their typical applications. This design will hold patients weighing up to 500lb (227kg).

Finally, to what extent are you able to customise devices for individual customer requirements?

Most of CiD’s R&D projects start with a concept advanced by a customer who wants a solution for a patient positioning challenge. Sometimes, modification of an existing product is needed, other times, the requirements may result in something entirely new. Before developing any custom device, CiD provides a free initial consultation, during which we discuss the project criteria and ensure that the scope is within the firm’s expertise. During development, the project engineers work with the customer to create a device specification identifying the required features, methods of use, and materials to be used in fabrication.

One or more prototypes are then built: the feedback from each helps with the next version until a practice-ready device has been achieved. For designs that may result in CiD-developed commercial products, the company may partially, or completely, waive the development fee.