March 4, 2022
Egg Medical Inc. secured a $13 million investment from TVM Capital Life Science to solve the Humpty-Dumpty problem that plagues interventional cardiology – the scattering of radiation during X-ray guided procedures. The company’s Eggnest XR product contains the radiation using a carbon fiber platform with integrated radiation shielding that replaces the patient mattress on the X-ray table.
“Occupational exposure of hospital staff to X-rays during medical procedures is an important workplace risk. Almost everyone in the interventional cardiology and radiology profession knows someone with a radiation-related illness. There have been minimal improvements in X-ray shielding over the past 30 years, leaving the medical teams working in these environments exposed to scatter radiation every day,” said Egg Medical CEO Robert Wilson. “The Eggnest platform addresses the problem of hospital personnel radiation exposure for everyone working in these environments by reducing the exposure to scatter radiation by over 90%.”
The issue of radiation exposure is far from trivial. “The estimated risk for a high-volume operator is around 4% for a radiation-related cancer, not just getting cancer, and about a 2% risk of death from the radiation exposure,” Wilson told BioWorld. “There aren’t a lot of occupations where they say, ‘One in 50 of you guys is going to die.’”
Specific types of cancer including hematologic malignancies, lymphomas, leukemias and brain cancer are especially common. “In interventional cardiologists, the vast majority [of brain cancers] are on the left side of the brain, and that’s where the extra exposure is,” Wilson added.
Medical staff who work in these settings also have six times the risk of cataracts and tend to develop them decades earlier than the early 70s seen in the general population. There may also be increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
All those complications arise because only 2% of the radiation emitted by the X-ray tube under the patient reaches the camera that makes the images. The rest disperses around the cath lab or operating room. As a result, interventional physicians have twice the radiation exposure of nuclear power plant workers, the International Atomic Energy Agency found.
Despite the risk experienced by physicians and nurses, regulators and professional societies have focused primarily on reducing exposure for patients. “That’s because there isn’t an alternative,” Wilson noted. “Nobody’s going to stop putting stents in or stop treating patients with strokes.” To his point, over the last decade, the number of fluoroscopy-guided procedures has risen sharply, not just for cardiologists, but for orthopedists, gynecologists, urologists, gastrologists and other specialists as well, dramatically increasing the number of professionals regularly exposed to radiation.
How it works
Eggnest replaces the mattress that a patient lays on during an X-ray guided procedure with a carbon fiber platform with internal shielding. The location is key, as 70% of scatter radiation comes from below the table.
A mattress with memory foam layers slips inside the shell, increasing comfort and supporting chest compressions, if necessary. Because carbon fiber is virtually invisible to X-rays, the beam can go directly through the unit. Around the framework, the unit has a series of flaps and panels that flip up and down to permit loading and unloading of the patient and a railing system that supports radiation protection components. The unit also has an integrated antimicrobial and impermeable surface.
Because the Eggnest lays on the table under the patient, it does not interfere with workflow or encumber to medical team. Its location also makes it comfortable for the patient, with nothing restricting movement or requiring special positioning. It allows full X-ray gantry motion and access to the patient.
Egg Medical’s research demonstrates that the Eggnest reduces scatter X-ray dose exposure by 97% for an echocardiographer, 90% for an angiographer, 92% for a physician performing a left chest procedure and 92% for a nurse standing 1.5 meters from the table compared to standard shielding.
Eggnest XR reduction in scatter radiation exposure.
Timing, timing, timing
While the real estate mantra is location, location, location, the last few years have taught Egg Medical and many other medical technology companies the importance of timing. The Arden Hills, Minn.-based company was ready to launch the Eggnest in late 2019 in the U.S. and planned to roll it out in Europe in March 2020.
The company persisted, relying on $3 million raised between angel investors and the company founders. In 2020-2021, Egg Medical installed 30 Eggnests and last June, it began selling in Europe and Taiwan. The new funds will be used to ramp up distribution with a goal of selling 100 units in 2022 and to develop additional radiation protection products for operating rooms and interventional radiology labs. The company also plans to add integrated electronics to the units.
As part of the financing, Luc Marengère, managing partner and Sascha Berger, general partner, for TVM Capital Life Science, will join Egg Medical’s board.