Digital mammography vendors switch into low gear

December 8, 2009

New offerings shown at RSNA 2009 by the makers of digital mammography equipment reflected a new reality in the U.S. market, one based on cost constraints and diminishing demand. Vendors emphasized low-cost solutions that guard against obsolescence at the expense of premium ones, a change spurred by the continuing recession in the U.S. and an installed base increasingly saturated with high-end full-field digital mammography systems.

New offerings shown at RSNA 2009 by the makers of digital mammography equipment reflected a new reality in the U.S. market, one based on cost constraints and diminishing demand. Vendors emphasized low-cost solutions that guard against obsolescence at the expense of premium ones, a change spurred by the continuing recession in the U.S. and an installed base increasingly saturated with high-end full-field digital mammography systems.

In response to the current economic atmosphere, Hologic highlighted its Selenia Dimensions 2D, which, with the addition of software, can perform tomosynthesis. The software to do this is available in Europe but not the U.S., as the FDA has not yet approved the sale of products capable of breast tomo. Hologic argued in Chicago that its Dimensions 2D offers protection against obsolescence to buyers who can use the functions akin to FFDM until tomo is approved. At the same time, the company sought to attract cost-constrained buyers with its Selenia S, a lower cost FFDM unit that supports only screening but can later be upgraded to diagnostic capability.

Addressing the same cost-constrained marketplace, GE Healthcare showed on the RSNA exhibit floor its Senographe Essential e, a screening system designed for use in the doctor’s office, screening clinic, mobile unit, or hospital. Like the Selenia S, it is equipped with only the technology needed to conduct a screening exam, but can be upgraded later to support diagnosis.

Fuji Medical Systems USA remains the only provider of low-cost digital mammography in the U.S. based on computed radiography (CR). The company displayed an improved version of its CR-based product at its RSNA exhibit booth. Like its predecessor, this second-generation full-field digital mammography unit, called Aspire ClearView, scans CR plates to acquire images. Data scanned using Aspire ClearView, however, will be processed at an enhanced acquisition workstation called the AWS-c. Neither the reader nor the workstation is yet available in the U.S.

Fuji also discussed at RSNA 2009 plans to supplement its mammography portfolio with a flat-panel system. This product, which is currently pending FDA approval but is available outside the U.S. under the name Amulet, uses an amorphous selenium flat-panel detector.

Novel technology built into the detector eliminates the need for thin-film transistors, which are commonly used in other selenium-based detectors to record x-rays. The Fuji approach, called Direct Optical Switching, allows 50-micron resolution. If and when the FFDM product meets FDA approval, Fuji plans to bring it to the U.S. under the name Aspire HD.