Vendor claims new system has 1024 acquisition channelsGE Medical Systems just raised the ante in the high-stakes battle for technological superiority in ultrasound. The Milwaukee company demonstrated on May 7 a new level of ultrasound performance
Vendor claims new system has 1024 acquisition channels
GE Medical Systems just raised the ante in the high-stakes battle for technological superiority in ultrasound. The Milwaukee company demonstrated on May 7 a new level of ultrasound performance with the unveiling of its latest upgrade to the Logiq MR (Maximum Resolution) scanner.
Advances in software and transducer technology have been combined to forge an ultrasound scanner capable of improved uniformity in gray-scale imaging, finer precision in color Doppler, and GE's first use of 3-D sonography.
The cornerstone of the new upgrade is the Voxel Image Processor (VIP), which uses 1024 acquisition channels and 2048 processing channels. Competing systems typically offer no more than 128 acquisition channels, while Acuson's Sequoia system has 512 processing channels. Feeding this new processor is a new 2-D transducer technology called Active Matrix Array, which is made up of 1024 elements arranged in rows and columns across the face of the transducer. The technology allows VIP to acquire data in three rather than two dimensions.
Algorithms built into the Maximum Resolution Flow software allow display of color-flow images, resulting in smoother and more accurate representation of flow, according to GE's general manager of global ultrasound Omar Ishrak.
"We focus the beam in all three dimensions, and the result in the image is obvious-clearer in the near and far field," Ishrak said.
Because they are acquired in three dimensions, those data can also be assembled into very exact 3-D reconstructions, using algorithms ported from GE's MRI and CT products. Those algorithms form the basis of 3DvieW, a 3-D display package that is pending Food and Drug Administration clearance.
3DvieW is integrated into the console of the scanner, eliminating the need for separate workstations. Color and gray-scale data can be viewed simultaneously or separately on-screen in both two and three dimensions. Reconstruction times vary from 20 seconds to about one minute for 3-D images, depending on the area to be reconstructed and the type of presentation-color or gray-scale, maximum or minimum intensity projection.
The clinical benefits from harnessing this technology could be substantial. Several luminaries present at GE's unveiling described the advances as delivering enhanced resolution in both gray-scale and color imaging. Dr. Philip Ralls, a professor of radiology at the University of Southern California, noted improved uniformity throughout the field-of-view in breast and abdominal cases. He expressed surprise in the potential of the system's 3-D imaging capability to deliver diagnostically useful information.
"I used to think I couldn't learn anything from 3-D, but I now think it will be able to detect pathology and anatomy that I wouldn't be able to see before," Ralls said. "It is still investigational, but it is showing some interesting things."
The thin sonographic slices, delivered by sweeping the transducer across an area of the body, in some cases provide enhanced contrast when reconstructed into 3-D images. Dr. Barry Goldberg, a professor of radiology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, noted that one 3-D reconstruction on display showed not only the needle currently in place as part of a breast biopsy but the pathway taken by a needle used in an earlier biopsy.
"This gives us the potential to confirm from what areas of masses biopsies have been taken in the past," Goldberg said.
High-tech debut. The results were part of a program broadcast May 7 via satellite to some 1200 clinical sites across the U.S. GE plans to release a new version of its various ultrasound products-the high-end 700; the mid-range Logiq 500 and 400, and ob/gyn Logiq alpha 200-every 12 months, a series of scheduled "breakthroughs" initially promised last May when the company introduced the Maximum Resolution version of the Logiq 700.
"We define breakthroughs in a precise manner: features that solve clinically relevant problems that are demonstrable in images and a wide range of clinical applications," Ishrak said.
The clinical results presented May 7 were obtained with Logiq 700 using either the M3 or M12 transducer, both of which rely on GE's new transducer technology. M3 operates at 3 MHz, M12 at 12 MHz. End users need not buy both probes to obtain the kind of results commonly associated with the frequencies at which they operate.
The elevational focusing possible with the multi-element
2-D transducer, combined with VIP, provides uniform contrast and spatial resolution over the entire field-of-view.
"There is a uniformity of resolution from skin surface to the depth of the image," said Goldberg.
Users upgrading to the new technology might choose M3 or M12 to replace a probe at either a low or high frequency, depending on their mix of patients or interest in specific applications. But they probably would not need both.
"We have the ability to be more flexible with any one probe," said Dr. Thomas Stavros, an assistant clinical professor at the University of Colorado. "We could scan with one probe and arrive at the same answer as if we used more than one probe operating at different frequencies."
Each new 2-D probe from GE lists at $30,000, although Ishrak stated that the company plans to work with customers through trade-ins of existing probes or other financial incentives that might support their acquisition of the technology. Buyers will have to come up with an additional $15,000 or so to obtain the Voxel Image Processor that will allow these probes to reach their potential. Because the 3-D capability has yet to be cleared by the FDA, the company has not set a price for this part of the upgrade.
Clearance is anticipated in a matter of weeks, however, at which time the technology will be available immediately for shipping. Customers seeking to upgrade to the currently available technologies can expect to receive product within 60 days of ordering.
The new release and anticipated 3-D adjunct are just the first steps toward a far more advanced ultrasound system that Ishrak envisions in the years ahead. That system will take shape incrementally as GE engineers craft and assemble the pieces as part of their annual technology introductions.