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Revolutionary medical treatments for nerves find world export markets

May 14 2003
Will Smale
The Western Mail - The National Newspaper Of Wales
A MEDICAL company helping in the fight to defeat a number of neurological diseases is quietly continuing to be one of Wales's most successful, if unsung, exporters.

Whitland-based Magstim is a specialist developer and manufacturer of nerve stimulation and monitoring equipment. Its machines, which are used by hospitals around the world, work by creating a split-second magnetic pulse.

When applied to nerve endings anywhere in the body it stimulates a message or signal which can be tracked and studied by doctors.

The medical staff can in turn quickly use this information to diagnose whether a patient has such conditions as multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy.

Magstim's machines also have a wealth of other applications, such as treating chronic depression that has not responded to drugs.

In the past this would have been done by traumatic electric shock therapy, requiring the patient to be put under general anaesthetic.

Magstim's magnetic pulse technology is in contrast so gentle that no sedation is required.

Founded in 1990, the company today employs 51 people and exports 84% of its production.

Enjoying an annual turnover between £3m and £5m, its equipment is also used to treat sports industries and help stroke patients regain feeling and movement.

In addition Magstim makes nerve monitoring machines which are used by surgeons when operating on a nerve-rich part of the body, such as the neck or spine.

The equipment gives out an audio warning when he or she is getting near a nerve when operating, acting as an additional safeguard against any unforeseen damage.

It was successfully used last year by a team of surgeons in Birmingham who separated two twins who were fused at the back.

Both youngsters continue to make a full recovery.

Robin Lewis, managing director of Magstim, said, "A lot of our trials are now conducted in the US. America represents 40% of the whole worldwide market for medical equipment, so it is vital for us to work closely with the regulatory authorities over there.

"We now export 84% of our products. Working in such a specialist area to concentrate on just the UK would not have been enough.

"And as a small company we cannot afford giant sales teams in each and every country, so we sell to distributors who then sell on to the hospitals.

"The business is continuing to gradually build up further and into more and more countries as we develop newer and newer technologies and techniques. We promote our products by attending the major neurological conferences and exhibitions around the world.

"We were recently at one in Hawaii and have a few coming up in the summer." NERVE TECHNOLOGY: Test engineer Richard Phillips with a Magstim 200 stimulator

Copyright © Trinity Mirror Plc 2003