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Aloka raises stakes in contest for mainstream ultrasound


New offering fills out family of digital scannersUltrasound specialist Aloka is hoping to win the battle for value with the release of its latest digital color Doppler system. The ProSound SSD-3500, launched at last month's

New offering fills out family of digital scanners

Ultrasound specialist Aloka is hoping to win the battle for value with the release of its latest digital color Doppler system. The ProSound SSD-3500, launched at last month's European Congress of Radiology in Vienna, is being heralded as a midrange ultrasound system exhibiting high-end performance.

The SSD-3500 fills out the bottom tier of Aloka's ProSound range of premium digital ultrasound scanners. Technology and features from existing family members-SSD-5500, SSD-5000, and SSD-4000-have been migrated to the lower priced system, which will sell for around $50,000.

A mail campaign introducing the SSD-3500 to existing Aloka customers in Europe is under way. The company, based in Wallingford, CT, is ready to ship the CE-Marked scanner to all European countries, with maximum order fulfillment time estimated to be one month.

U.S. customers will have to wait a while longer. The scanner was shown as a work-in-progress at the 2002 RSNA meeting and received FDA clearance just a few days later. But the company is still awaiting test results for safety labeling, according to Lee Oppegaard, vice president of marketing for Aloka. He expects U.S. marketing, focusing primarily on ob/gyn applications, to begin at the end of April.

Key selling points include wideband superhigh-density probes, for improved fundamental and harmonic echo imaging, and digital pure beam imaging to enhance contrast and spatial resolution. The SSD-3500 also has full DICOM compatibility, a 12-bit analog-to-digital converter, and the ability to generate images at 500 frames per second.

"These are specifications that you find only on high-end machines," said Claudio Buffagni, vice president of sales and marketing, Aloka Holding Europe. "A standard midrange system would normally run with an 8-bit converter at a maximum of 90 to 100 frames per second, but not our system."

Users can select from up to five different transmission frequencies on the console keypad, and view B-mode and flow modes side by side in real-time. Second harmonic imaging is standard, while a 3D volume mode can be selected as an add-on feature. The digital system can be connected directly to a normal PC printer for instant generation of reports and images. It works well as a stand-alone system or can be connected to a hospital network, Buffagni said.

The SSD-3500 is being aimed at three key markets in Europe: radiology, ob/gyn, and vascular. In radiology, it will be pushed as a second-level scanner for routine work, with emphasis on the high-frequency probe. The ob/gyn market is expected to welcome connection options for transvaginal and endocavity probes, while the high-frequency probe and color Doppler performance are designed to interest physicians doing vascular work, according to Buffagni.

"It has a user-oriented system architecture and is very easy to move around," he said. "It is going to be a perfect machine for daily hospital use and private practices."

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