CT vendors delivered on promises made a year earlier with the delivery of 64-slice scanners. As the RSNA show floor opened, each of the four major vendors -- Siemens, GE, Philips, and Toshiba -- was either shipping these megaslice scanners or planning to begin doing so in early 2005. The offerings, however, were anything but homogeneous. The differences became apparent in each company’s presentation of its products and discussion of its competitors.
CT vendors delivered on promises made a year earlier with the delivery of 64-slice scanners. As the RSNA show floor opened, each of the four major vendors - Siemens, GE, Philips, and Toshiba - was either shipping these megaslice scanners or planning to begin doing so in early 2005. The offerings, however, were anything but homogeneous. The differences became apparent in each company's presentation of its products and discussion of its competitors.
Claims and comments revolved around the number of slices as well as product status. Several industry execs took issue with the moniker applied to Siemens' Sensation 64, noting that the scanner, which has 32 detector elements, generates 64 slices by waggling the flying focal spot. Siemens shot back that resolution, not detector elements, was the issue and that customers clearly agreed, as the company had installed 45 such systems worldwide including 16 in the U.S., putting it well ahead of its competition.
Toshiba was second as of the start of the meeting, with six systems installed worldwide and a seventh due in January. Philips and GE each had one.
Toshiba's Aquilion 32, GE's LightSpeed Pro 32, Philips' Brilliance 40, and Siemens' Sensation 40 were presented as lower priced alternatives. Philips and Toshiba showcased niche scanners for oncology, while Siemens dotted the landscape with CTs at a variety of price points. Hitachi joined the fray with a quadslice scanner and plans to produce a 16-slice CT later in 2005.
LightSpeed VCT moved to the head of GE's CT commercial portfolio on the heels of clinical tests performed since midyear at its Froedtert Hospital luminary site. General availability was pegged for early 2005.
Once a supplier of CT scanners to U.S. customers under the Philips label, the company lost its footing in North America when Philips began producing its own scanners following the introduction by competitors of multislice CTs. Philips' transition to in-house development was solidified in 2001 with the purchase of Marconi Medical Systems. Hitachi now has returned to the U.S. market with its own line of multislice scanners.
· CXR 4, Hitachi's quadslice scanner, has already entered the U.S. as part of the company's Sceptre P3 PET/CT. It will solo in early 2005, as Hitachi targets imaging centers and other facilities that own its Airis open MR scanners.
· A 16-slice work-in-progress is in development. Commercial release could come as early as mid-2005.
Philips framed its Brilliance 64 as heir to its superpremium CT offering, talking up early results from tests conducted at Carmel Hospital in Haifa, Israel. By the RSNA meeting, the company had installed eight less powerful, 40-slice systems, which began shipping routinely in early October to luminary sites around the world. Philips also offers a portfolio of six-, 10-, and 16-slice scanners.
Siemens' 64-slice CT premiered as the most widely adopted superpremium scanner, with 45 installations worldwide at the time of the RSNA meeting and 100 projected by year's end. Speed 4D technology built into the premium scanners features tube technology that allows 0.37-second gantry rotation and faster cooling, as well as optimized data reconstruction algorithms and automated x-ray dose calculations. The Sensation 64 and its 64-slice sidekick Sensation Cardiac complement the Sensation 16 general-purpose workhorse. The Sensation scanners are joined this year by a 40-slice CT. Leading their supporting cast is a new dual-slice entry-level system, a 20-slice system dedicated to oncology, and a family of Emotion scanners with as many as 16 slices.
By the start of the RSNA meeting, Toshiba Medical Systems had installed six 64-slice scanners: four in the U.S., one in Germany, and another in Japan. Aquilion 64 is slated for full production in Q1 2005. The company's 32-slice scanner, already in commercial production, is upgradable to 64 slices with the addition of data channels.