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Acuson's quarterly revenues surge to fourth straight record


Vendor sees potential in Native Tissue Harmonic ImagingThe hits keep coming for ultrasound vendor Acuson. Spurred by strong sales of its Sequoia and Aspen scanners and a strong global ultrasound market, the Mountain View, CA-based company had

Vendor sees potential in Native Tissue Harmonic Imaging

The hits keep coming for ultrasound vendor Acuson. Spurred by strong sales of its Sequoia and Aspen scanners and a strong global ultrasound market, the Mountain View, CA-based company had another record-breaking quarter.

In the second quarter (end-June), Acuson reported revenue of $112.7 million, up 52% compared with $74.4 million in the second quarter in 1996. Net income was $5.7 million, compared with a net loss of $10.6 million in 1996, when the vendor incurred start-up costs for Sequoia.

The six-month financial results are also impressive. For the first half of the year, Acuson reported total revenues of $220.3 million, up 38% compared with $159.2 million in the first half of 1996. Net income was $11.6 million, compared with a loss of $9.3 million in the same period last year. After reviewing the second-quarter figures, investment house Bear, Stearns & Co. raised its rating of the company's stock from neutral to buy.

The second quarter also saw the introduction of a technique called Native Tissue Harmonic Imaging to the company's flagship Sequoia scanner. After first debuting Native Tissue Harmonic Imaging in June on its Sequoia C256 echocardiography scanner (SCAN 6/25/97), Acuson migrated the technique to the radiology version of Sequoia in July.

Acuson executives and two prominent clinicians discussed the new technique during an online conference with media and analysts.

The technique transmits lower frequency sound waves to improve penetration, while receiving and processing only higher frequency echoes produced by the body's inherent harmonic characteristics, according to the company. Native Tissue Harmonic Imaging does not require the use of a contrast agent.

Native Tissue Harmonic Imaging greatly improves the ability to scan difficult-to-image patients, a patient population that includes smokers and overweight or elderly patients, and represents approximately one-third of all ultrasound studies, according to the company. Muscular patients or those with very narrow rib spacings or a thick body wall also typically fall into this category, according to the company.

Difficult-to-image patients have not benefited as much from recent advances in ultrasound imaging, according to Dr. Roy Filly, a professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco.

"This technology takes a giant step in solving a huge problem in ultrasonographic imaging," he said.

In radiology, Acuson believes that the technique will offer particular benefit in abdominal and ob/gyn applications. For example, Native Tissue Harmonic Imaging could help in the evaluation of pregnancy, one of the most common sonographic applications. Image clarity can often be reduced by a thickening of abdominal walls, resulting from a natural tendency of expectant mothers to gain weight. The new technology can improve visibility in these cases, Filly said.

Since the technique will be used on patients who typically take the longest time to image, Native Tissue Harmonic Imaging could also lead to improved productivity and efficiency in ultrasound departments, Filly said.

"Ultrasound is a very personnel-intensive business," he said. "Every time you make it easier for them to complete a study, you increase their efficiency, and therefore decrease the major component of ultrasound operations within the hospital."

In other Acuson news, the vendor unveiled a high-frequency imaging technique in July called Microson. When combined with a new family of Microson high-frequency transducers, Microson allows radiologists to clearly see anatomy as small as individual nerve bundles and blood flow in submillimeter levels, according to the company.

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