Imagine a physician's frustration in the 1950s when he was faced with putting a metal pin in a patient's leg to repair a broken femur.
In order to get the pin placed correctly, an X-ray was taken. Then all the operating room personnel had to wait until the X-ray was developed and the doctor could see whether what he was doing was correct.Dozens of X-rays later, the pinning was complete, but plenty of time was wasted.
Today, sophisticated machines give a physician a constant, televised, X-ray image of the broken leg, which greatly reduces the pinning process time. In addition, the patient can get back to a normal life more quickly because the pinning process is accomplished through a smaller incision.
In today's modern operating room, virtually all surgeries that require X-ray control are performed using constantly televised X-ray images.
The leader in the industry for producing the sophisticated imaging machines (with 40 percent of the market) is located in West Valley City at 2341 S. 2300 West, but the company had its original plant in Warsaw, Ind., according to Larry Harrawood, vice president for marketing and product development.
Officials of OEC-Diasonics know what goes on inside operating rooms and design equipment to meet physicians' requirements, Harrawood said. That equipment is being used in many American hospitals and major medical teaching institutions.
In 1987, OEC-Diasonics had $22 million in sales and set a goal for 1988 of $30 million. In the first six months of 1988 sales increased 60 percent, so the 1988 goal probably will be reached.
To understand the genesis of OEC-Diasonics, one must look back at the history of orthopedics in the early 1900s when the practice was rather crude, Harrawood said. Orthopedics were handled by general practitioners and broken bones were fixed through the application of either splints or traction.
OEC was founded in 1942 in Warsaw by Frank Saemann and that company, along with Zimmer and DePuy Co., manufactured orthopedic equipment such as splints, bone screws and plates and crutches. OEC also had divisions in England and Germany.
A major breakthrough in orthopedics came in the 1950s when "closed long bone nailing" under X-ray control was perfected. Metal pins were used to support fractured long bones such as tibias and femurs and the incisions through which the metal pins were inserted were very small. Although the X-rays had to be developed one at a time before the next move was taken, the process nevertheless got the patient back to a normal life 10 times quicker than under the old process.
Harrawood said the technique caught fire in Europe, but American physicians for many years still used the old method of making extremely long incisions for insertion of the metal pins. He said the English and German divisions of OEC were selling the implant devices, but sales in America lagged.
European doctors eventually started using crude versions of the mobile C-arm image intensifier that could be wheeled into an operating room, allowing the doctors to constantly view the problem area while they worked.
As late as 1970 very few American hospitals had these machines.
In 1972, OEC entered the mobile X-ray market with a product built to the company's specifications by a European X-ray equipment manufacturer. Because there was so little interest in C-arm imaging systems, OEC officials devised an unusual method of educating medical personnel about the machines.
Vans were the answer.
With a C-arm machine and tables on which patients are laid during the orthopedic procedure loaded in vans, company-employed X-ray technicians drove them to hospitals according to a prearranged schedule. For one week, the devices were used by physicians in their bone pinnings and soon orthopedic physicians were begging their superiors to purchase the equipment for the operating room because the work time was reduced by two thirds.
"We literally forced the market," said Harrawood.
The year 1975 was eventful for OEC because officials formed a separate division called OEC Medical Systems and it became the X-ray equipment portion of the business. That same year OEC also started developing its own mobile C-arm image intensifier machine.
As a part of the total system for operating room imaging, the company also developed a line of surgery tables, all to be compatible with the mobile C-arm.
The company contracted with Varian Associates, Palo Alto, Calif., to provide the electronic components for the company's new C-arm machine. Varian opened a manufacturing plant at OEC's present Salt Lake location where the electronic parts were "stuffed" into the mobile C-arm machines made in the Warsaw plant and shipped to West Valley City.
In December 1977, OEC Medical Systems' new Model 901 C-arm machine was shipped, going to Oak Park Hospital, Chicago. Since then, more than 2,000 C-arm machines in various models have been sold to hospitals.
In June 1981, Diasonics, a California-based manufacturer of ultrasound imaging equipment, acquired the electronics stuffing contract for C-arms from Varian.
Harrawood said Diasonics started in 1978 as a pioneer in the ultrasound imaging business and officials decided to keep the old Varian factory in West Valley City and continue operation.
In September 1983, Diasonics acquired OEC Medical Systems and it became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Diasonics Inc. Less than two years later, Benno Lotz, chairman of the board of OEC, moved the headquarters to West Valley City, although the Warsaw operation was retained.
A native of Germany, Lotz operated the German Division of OEC and came to Warsaw in 1976 as chairman of the board when Saemann retired.
At OEC's Warsaw operation, all of the mechanical components for the X-ray equipment are manufactured in a 50,000 square-foot machine shop facility equipped with state-of-the-art computer controlled machining centers, Harrawood said. The facility employs 50 people.
The mechanical parts are shipped to West Valley City where the electronics are installed, calibrated and tested. This operation employs 180 people, some in field sales and service in various parts of the country.
Harrawood attributes the company's success to the wide diversity of managers, who have a variety of experience that enables them to apply computers and electronics to mechanical devices that fill a need from the physician's point of view.
Besides Lotz and Harrawood, the management team consists of David Burya, manufacturing director; Jim Harvey, vice president for engineering and research and development; Gary Kilman, vice president for sales; John Tolhurst, director of quality control; and Randy Zundel, vice president of operations.
The C-arms, which cost between $86,000 and $200,000, depending on what capability the customer desires, are the company's primary product, but the firm also manufactures surgery tables on which patients can be positioned for the various surgical procedures that are performed under C-arm imaging control.
Another new product is UroView, a device costing between $170,000 and $200,000 that is used in the treatment of urinary problems. With the latter, the same principle of a constant televised X-ray image is used.
OEC-Diasonics recently was the subject of The Health Show on ABC, which showed the mobile C-arm applied in the emergency room rather than in the operating room. In addition to giving an immediate image of a broken bone, the C-arm also can view broken blood vessels and allow the repairs to be made immediately.
As time goes on, Harrawood said, OEC will monitor the medical scene and as new advances in medicine come about, the company will attempt to meet physicians' needs with equipment that provides a faster recovery times for patients.