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Continental joins digital x-ray fray with agreement for AID’s Imix 4000M


Trex division plans roll-out in next 30 daysThe Continental division of Trex Medical in Danbury, CT, plans to expand the functionality of its x-ray product line, thanks to an agreement with equipment company Advanced Instrument Development X-Ray

Trex division plans roll-out in next 30 days

The Continental division of Trex Medical in Danbury, CT, plans to expand the functionality of its x-ray product line, thanks to an agreement with equipment company Advanced Instrument Development X-Ray of Melrose Park, IL. Trex and AID have signed an exclusive deal in which AID will provide its Imix 4000M digital chest detectors to Trex for incorporation into Continental x-ray systems.

Up to now, AID’s Imix 4000M was one of the lesser known products in the digital detector universe. The system is manufactured by Imix of Tampere, Finland, which licensed the product to AID (SCAN 4/1/98). It was first unveiled at the 1995 European Congress of Radiology, and more than 20 systems have been sold in Europe. Imix 4000M received 510(k) clearance in the U.S. in March.

Imix 4000M consists of the detector, electronics, and software required to convert x-rays into digital data. The system does not include other components used in a complete x-ray system, such as an x-ray source, generator, and tube stand, and for that reason AID originally intended to sell the system as a retrofit to analog chest x-ray systems already installed in the field.

The agreement with Trex is a modification of that strategy but, in some ways, will make life easier for AID due to Trex’s superior manufacturing and distribution capacity. Trex plans to incorporate Imix 4000M into Continental’s line of x-ray systems, including the ACS 1000 dedicated chest system, the GenRad general-purpose unit, the PMT linear tomography system, and the DigiSpot 2000 digital radiography-fluoroscopy unit. The agreement is an outgrowth of a long-standing component supply relationship between AID and Continental that goes back over 20 years.

Continental will offer the AID unit as an option to the systems under the product name Trex 4000M. It also plans to offer the detectors as retrofits to newer Continental x-ray systems installed in the field. Continental will gain two benefits by adding the detectors to its systems: Products with the detectors not only support digital imaging, but will also become capable of chest imaging, making the systems more versatile.

Trex pursued the relationship with AID due to the high level of interest hospitals are showing in digital x-ray systems, according to Patrick Fitzgerald, president of the Continental division. Many hospitals are looking at upgrading their aging installed base of x-ray systems to make them compatible with PACS technology.

“Because the promise of digital detection technology has been there for a number of years, people have held off replacing old film-based (chest) systems,” Fitzgerald said. “There is a large pent-up demand for exactly this type of product.”

Trex was impressed by the image quality of the Imix detector, as well as with its support for the DICOM 3.0 standard. The detector is based on CCD technology, like some other digital x-ray systems on the market, but it uses CCDs manufactured to military rather than commercial specifications. This results in better image quality and reliability, according to Fitzgerald.

Imix 4000M employs a 40 x 40-cm field of view, with images displayed in a 2K x 2K matrix with resolution of 2.5 line pairs/mm. Trex has also added an interface to enable data to be exchanged between a detector and a hospital’s HIS/RIS.

Continental has received deliveries of the first Imix detectors, which are manufactured by AID from components shipped from Imix. The detectors will be integrated into Continental’s x-ray systems at the division’s headquarters, with the company ready to begin installations in the next 30 days, Fitzgerald said. Trex also plans to display the detector at its booth in the American Healthcare Radiology Administrators meeting in Las Vegas later this month. The price of Trex 4000M systems will range between $250,000 and $450,000, depending on configuration and whether they are sold as upgrades to an installed system or as new x-ray units.

The alliance with AID puts Continental in the thick of the race to market digital chest x-ray systems. The competition has become especially heated in the last few months, with several companies gaining FDA clearances to enter the market:

  • Sterling Diagnostic Imaging of Greenville, SC, for its DirectRay technology (see story, page 1);
  • Konica of Wayne, NJ, for its Regius digital chest system based on storage phosphor technology (see story, page 4); and
  • Oldelft for its Digidelca line of CCD-based digital chest systems (SCAN 6/10/98).

Other companies, such as Fuji and Philips, have been selling digital chest systems for some time, while Swissray began marketing its AddOn-Multi-System earlier this year.

For its part, Trex is investigating the use of flat-panel digital detectors for general x-ray applications. The company has an internal development program but is open to outsourcing detectors from an OEM provider if they prove to be a superior technology. For now, however, the AID deal enables Continental to get into the digital chest market immediately, before the competition gets too hot.

“There are many customers who, based on the promise of digital detection technology, have made significant investments in PACS and are chomping at the bit to have digital acquisition devices that can be put into their networks,” Fitzgerald said.

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