Attention shifts to high-end compact ultrasound

May 1, 2009

Philips and Toshiba hope to open up a new end of the market for hand-carried ultrasound-the high end.

Philips and Toshiba hope to open up a new end of the market for hand-carried ultrasound-the high end. Each chose ECR 2009 to unveil high-performance general-purpose ultrasound scanners that can be carried to points of care to perform any kind of routine scan in radiology or cardiology.

Both are about the size of a thick laptop. Toshiba’s Viamo features an LCD that swivels 270º degrees into position above the body of the scanner. Philips’ CX50 CompactXtreme pops open like a laptop. Each can be carried to the scanning location but has the option of being rolled there on lightweight, highly maneuverable carts.

They share the processing power and capabilities found on their respective high-end cart-based systems, according to executives at the two vendors. They also leverage high-end transducer technologies. Resulting images are up to the most demanding tasks required under the most difficult circumstances, such as those seen in intensive care or emergency.

The trade-off is found not in performance, but in workflow. Jim Walchenbach, marketing manager for Philips ultrasound, compares the difference between a high-performance cart-based system and Philips’ CX50 to the one distinguishing a smart phone and a desktop computer.

“Today on a smart phone you can do just about anything you can do on your home computer-but you wouldn’t want to create a PowerPoint on your smart phone,” he said. “With compact ultrasound, you don’t necessarily get the same workflow that you would want to have on a daily basis all day long.”

Executives from both companies agree that the market for compact ultrasound systems is ready for high-end products. They cite sales growth better than 20% last year in hand-carried systems. This growth involved lower tier machines, priced substantially less than the Viamo or CX50, which will go for $75,000 (about €56,000 or more). But Toshiba marketing manager Joerg C. Schlegel expects that the higher price of the Viamo will not be a problem.

“We believe there is significant demand and this demand will grow over the next couple years,” he said.