GE aims Vectra toward small-hospital market

June 9, 2003

GE Medical Systems has positioned its new Vectra MRI unit in theU.S. as an economical fixed-site system for small- to mid-sizedhospitals. Trimmed down, the MR scanner will slip in under the$1 million certificate of need price ceiling required by

GE Medical Systems has positioned its new Vectra MRI unit in theU.S. as an economical fixed-site system for small- to mid-sizedhospitals. Trimmed down, the MR scanner will slip in under the$1 million certificate of need price ceiling required by somestates.

GE's first mid-field MRI system, the MR Max, will still besold into mobile applications, said Vern Sharma, GE mid-fieldproduct manager. The mobile MRI market is declining, however,and competition from 1-tesla systems for replacement sales isincreasing.

Vectra debuted in the U.S. at the April meeting of the Societyfor Magnetic Resonance Imaging in New York (SCAN 4/22/92). Thesystem was introduced in Japan in 1990 and in Europe last year(SCAN 10/23/91).

Designed by Yokogawa Medical Systems, GE's Japanese joint-venture,Vectra is GE's principal MRI system for Japanese and Europeansales. Like all GE MRI systems, Vectra's magnet is produced atthe vendor's factory in Florence, SC. Electronics are suppliedby YMS.

Vectra's international launch proved so successful that thecompany accelerated the timetable for its U.S. introduction, Sharmasaid.

GE will sell three versions of the new Vectra systems:

  • the Premium ($1.3 million);

  • the Standard ($1.1 million); and

  • the Econ, (under $1 million).

Vectra is the third GE MRI platform running at 0.5-tesla fieldstrength. The others are a mid-field version of the high-fieldSigna system and the MR Max.

MR Max has always been sold primarily as a mobile MRI system.Launched four and a half years ago (SCAN 12/23/87), it was thefirst superconductive MRI offering with sufficient magnetic self-shieldingto travel on the road ramped up.

Since the magnet used in the MR Max is the same as in the 0.5-teslaSigna, users have the option of upgrading to the Signa architecture.GE's 1.5-tesla Signa is the vendor's premier research system.It offers advanced applications that also run on the mid-fieldSigna.

Vectra is designed around a compact magnet weighing seven tons,compared to 14 tons on the MR Max and Signa systems, Sharma said.It has a single-gas (helium) cryogen system that requires onlytwo refills per year. The lighter magnet cuts siting costs.

Computer electronics are contained in a single cabinet, whilethe mid-field Signa unit requires two cabinets. Vectra can beinstalled in about 380 sq. ft., compared to 470 sq. ft. for Signaat 0.5-tesla. Its patient bore is 55 cm wide, as are those inthe Signa and MR Max systems.

Vectra provides some features available on Signa, such as shieldedgradient coils, but because of its compact design, it cannot matchthe field homogeneity possible at 1.5 tesla, he said.

The higher priced Vectra Premium is equipped with fast spinecho and a vascular package (two- and three-dimensional time-of-flightand phase contrast).