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Diversity of products indicates healthy market for imaging

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Want to get dizzy? Spend an hour (or two or four) on the RSNA exhibit floor looking at the amazing array of CT options the major vendors are offering. What started as a trickle a few years ago has turned into a torrent.

Want to get dizzy? Spend an hour (or two or four) on the RSNA exhibit floor looking at the amazing array of CT options the major vendors are offering. What started as a trickle a few years ago has turned into a torrent.

The premium 64-slice CTs are still leading the way, but vendors have filled out their offerings with a host of new scanners with fewer slices designed for specific settings and price points.

One of the most interesting is the set of "big-bore" scanners intended for oncology imaging and our increasingly hefty U.S. population. Apparently, vendors have looked into the future and determined that Big Macs and French fries are not going away.

If that doesn't suit you, give some careful thought to patient volume and imaging applications and begin your search for the ideal CT configuration: single, double, quad, six, 10, 16, 32, 40, or 64 slices. Keep in mind your upgrade options as you go. Sometimes you have to replace a scanner, but vendors may be able to modify your existing setup with circuit boards and a detector swap.

As you write the check, be prepared to be hit with sticker shock-or not. Expect prices to range from about $200,000 up to $1.5 million for a premium model with all the bells and whistles.

In one sense, all of this diversity is healthy, a signal that there is a strong market for imaging information and multiple ways to fill it. But it should also be viewed with caution because so much of the lower tier market reaches beyond the core imaging field, radiology. Ultrasound moved beyond the boundaries of radiology some time ago. It appears that CT may be following in that direction.

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