Providing attenuation correction in SPECT/CT is no longer enough for GE Healthcare. The company that pioneered hybrid imaging five years ago with its Hawkeye Infinia will release a multislice version of the system a few weeks from now at the RSNA meeting. The reason is not so much the market as GE’s competitors.
Providing attenuation correction in SPECT/CT is no longer enough for GE Healthcare. The company that pioneered hybrid imaging five years ago with its Hawkeye Infinia will release a multislice version of the system a few weeks from now at the RSNA meeting. The reason is not so much the market as GE's competitors.
"We don't have customers beating down our doors to get a diagnostic CT put on the unit," said Joe Hogan, president and CEO of GE Healthcare. "But as customers look to the future, and they compare Siemens and Philips and GE units, they will want both - attenuation correction and diagnostic CT. That is part of the whole competitive thing."
At the Society of Nuclear Medicine meeting in June, Philips Medical Systems and Siemens Medical Solutions both released multislice SPECT/CT devices, ending GE's reign as the sole supplier of a hybrid CT/gamma camera. Siemens' TruePoint Symbia combines the company's e.cam dual-detector gamma camera with either a dual- or a six-slice CT.
Philips' Precedence hooks the company's vertically hung, dual-detector Skylight camera with the Brilliance multislice CT platform. Philips offers two configurations - one with six slices, the other with 16 (SCAN 6/28/04).
GE unveiled its Hawkeye Infinia in 1999 featuring a nondiagnostic single-slice scanner (SCAN 6/23/99). The goal then was to provide a fast and accurate source of attenuation correction. In the years following, PET/CT offerings from GE, Philips, and Siemens eclipsed the Hawkeye Infinia, which remained virtually unchanged from its original configuration.
"We focused a lot on PET and making sure our PET/CT product line was going right," Hogan said.
Now GE executives feel compelled to offer a more advanced version of the Hawkeye Infinia. Philips and Siemens have raised the bar.
"I think the SPECT/CT we have right now is a good product. We will evolve it to 16 or 64 slices, whatever," he said. "But I really think it is a case of diminishing returns."
Cost is the issue. Combining a high-performance CT with a gamma camera boosts the price of the product substantially. On the bright side, quad-, eight-, and 16-slice scanners have come down dramatically in price with the introduction of their 32- and 64-slice cousins.
"It makes more sense now (to link a multislice CT to a gamma camera) than in the past, but nuclear is still a tough price point," Hogan said. "I really think anything more than four slices is overkill, but we will respond properly."
Hogan provided no details about the number of slices the company's new SPECT/CT will generate but implied that a version with a nondiagnostic CT will remain in the portfolio. The company has evaluated the marketplace, he said, and will give the marketplace what it wants.
"We certainly have the technology to do that," he said.
Philips' entry into the cardiology market with a 16-slice scanner designed for the private practitioner raises the question of whether SPECT/CT, outfitted with a 16- or 32-slice scanner, might succeed in nuclear cardiology. Philips executives at the SNM meeting noted that the 16-slice version of its Precedence will be targeted at cardiology and that the six-slice version will be aimed at oncology. Pairing such CTs with SPECT cameras is attractive not only from a clinical perspective, but from a technological one as well.
"If you want to go over 32 slices, you have to organize your detector in a different way, a more expensive way," Hogan said. "We developed the four-, eight-, 16-, and 32-slice scanners on the same platform. In the future, I can see all those machines being niched in certain ways."