GE Healthcare gains ‘Altitude’ on wings of Japanese supplier

October 24, 2005

GE Healthcare plans to release in December a fixed-room, ceiling-mounted C-arm designed for the operating room. The Altitude system will be contract manufactured by Shimadzu Medical Systems.

GE Healthcare plans to release in December a fixed-room, ceiling-mounted C-arm designed for the operating room. The Altitude system will be contract manufactured by Shimadzu Medical Systems.

Altitude is identical to Shimadzu's AngioSpeed in all components except the table, which GE custom-crafted for the OR, according to Sunita Pargass, segment marketing manager for GE OEC, a subsidiary of GE Healthcare based in Salt Lake City.

"That is something the Shimadzu system does not have," she said. "And, for our market, which is in the OR, that is important."

Before and since its acquisition six years ago by GE, OEC has specialized in high-performance mobile C-arms for intraoperative and minimally invasive therapy applications. Their use by vascular surgeons has been growing, so much so that many sites could justify a fixed-room C-arm, if the price was right.

Altitude fits a sweet spot between GE's high-end flat-panel Innova vascular system and the OEC mobile C-arm vascular systems. On its scheduled commercial release later this year, Altitude will list for between $700,000 and $800,000, compared with more than $1 million for Innova, according to Pargass.

The availability of this technology, already proven as the platform for a commercial product, cut GE's time to market, Pargass said.

"When we looked at our product portfolio and emerging trends, this was missing," she said. "Instead of developing a whole new technology, which would take us a long time to get to market, we looked around to partner and we got into talks with Shimadzu."

Features built into the Shimadzu-supplied system promote patient throughput, reduced dose, and optimization of contrast media. The key to these advantages is Motion Tolerant Subtraction (MTS), which allows the capture of images without the need for a mask run. Eliminating the mask run also eliminates the x-ray dose and contrast media otherwise administered for that part of the exam. It also minimizes the overall time necessary to do the procedure.

The low-cost, high-value system is based on advanced digital imaging technology, featuring a million-pixel CCD camera built into either 12- or 16-inch image intensifiers. The premium performance camera allows sharp guidewire visualization during catheter tracking and edge enhancement of blood vessels, while suppressing the halation effects that can burden fluoroscopic imaging.

The system cleared the FDA Aug. 11 for diagnostic, surgical, and interventional angiography, as well as use during cardiac procedures. The ceiling-suspended C-arm support (MH-200S), digital subtraction system (DAR-9000), and high-voltage generator (UD1 50B-40) were previously cleared under Shimadzu submissions.