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Canon joins digital radiography race with amorphous silicon offering


Canon joins digital radiography race with amorphous silicon offeringFirm highlights system's integration with PACS as key benefitCanon USA has become the latest medical imaging vendor to bring a digital radiography system to market. The

Canon joins digital radiography race with amorphous silicon offering

Firm highlights system's integration with PACS as key benefit

Canon USA has become the latest medical imaging vendor to bring a digital radiography system to market. The company has received Food and Drug Administration 510(k) clearance for an upright version of its amorphous silicon-based Canon Digital Radiography system. Canon will be marketing the system primarily as a retrofit.

The offering, which has also cleared Japanese Pharmaceutical Law and received the European CE Mark, is now available in U.S., Europe, Japan, and Canada. Although the announcement is good news for Canon, the company will face stiff competition from vendors such as Sterling Diagnostic Imaging and GE Medical Systems, which have established potent distribution channels for their flat-panel offerings. Canon will tout the flexibility and vendor-neutral aspects of its retrofit approach to differentiate itself from other firms.

Unlike most of the other vendors seeking to enter the digital radiography market, Canon does not offer x-ray film or generators, said Neo Imai, product manager for Canon USA of Lake Success, NY. Consequently, potential customers could integrate Canon's system into their existing x-ray room and PACS infrastructure, he said.

"When customers want to introduce digital radiography technology to their radiology department, they obviously want to use existing x-ray rooms and existing x-ray tubes, and a PACS network," he said. "Our system is flexible so they don't have to buy the whole system, including generators and tables."

If customers desire, they could purchase a complete system, including a generator and tube from Canon's dealers, who sell and integrate these items from other companies such as Trex Medical and Shimadzu Medical Systems, said Tony Shinohara, director and general manager of medical products.

List price for the digital radiography system will be about $240,000. If a customer purchases a complete system, including tube and generator, Canon estimates the cost would be between $300,000 to $350,000. This is in line with estimates of other companies marketing these types of digital radiography systems.

Sales will be conducted through a mix of direct and dealer sales. The firm will sell directly to luminary sites, with a dealer network handling the remainder of potential clients. The dealer network will be in place at this month's Radiological Society of North America meeting, Imai said. In addition to these sales efforts, Canon is in negotiations for an OEM distribution opportunity, Shinohara said.

The flat-panel detector leverages off Canon's amorphous silicon sensor technology employed in facsimile machines, scanners, and solar-energy panels for the last decade. It offers a full-field, 17 x 17-inch imaging area (2688 x 2688 pixels) and provides 12-bit images with pixel pitch of 160 microns and spatial resolution of 3.1 line pairs per mm. Other components of the system include a control station and operation unit/preview panel.

Within three seconds of image capture, the 10.5-inch preview monitor can show a sub-sampled version for quality control and cropping, if the technologist desires, according to Canon. An electronic, diagnostic-quality image can be ready in 30 seconds. The sensor plate can acquire additional imaging exposures every six seconds.

Built-in image processing software displays a targeted body-part image on a 17 x 17-inch imaging area, while the system's 4.2-GB hard disk can store up to 300 digital images, according to the firm. Clinical testing of the system was performed at the Cleveland Clinic and the University of California, San Francisco, according to Canon. Each site has linked the system to its PACS network.

Canon points to the system's smooth integration with PACS networks as a key benefit. It provides native DICOM 3.0 output, integrating into Ethernet 10/100 Base T networks. At this month's RSNA meeting, Canon will also show connectivity using DICOM modality work list with IDXRad, a radiology information system from IDX Systems of Burlington, VT. Connectivity will be demonstrated with Canon's digital radiography system and PACS offerings, which are sold by Canon's Gardena, CA-based Astro Business Solutions division.

"After digital images are captured, a message will be sent to the RIS saying that the job is completed," Imai said.

In addition to its upright system, Canon plans to commercialize a table-based version soon. The company expects to receive FDA clearance in early 1999, Imai said.

At this month's RSNA meeting, Canon will also demonstrate a retrofit bucky with its flat-panel sensor unit. Availability is expected in mid-1999, he said.

Down the road, Canon plans to apply its flat-panel technology to mammography and fluoroscopy systems, although it declined to provide a time line for commercialization.

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