GE scanner fuses US images with CT, MR, and PET data

GE Healthcare has a new ultrasound flagship, one whose architecture and beamformer improve image uniformity as its workflow tools speed routine scans, according to the company. But the most remarkable aspect of GE's latest ultrasound system is none of these. It's not even related to diagnosis.

What sets GE's new scanner, the Logiq E9, apart is the ability to simultaneously display side-by-side-or even one laid over the other in a 3D model-gray-scale or color ultrasound data and CT, MR, or PET data. This ability to merge data from other modalities into a live ultrasound scan is conveyed by the E9's Volume Navigation, which continuously updates the volumetric model of a patient with real-time ultrasound data, offering moment-to-moment guidance for interventionalists.

Volume Navigation enables re-thinking the whole approach to interventional radiology, according to Terri Bresenham, vice president of GE Healthcare's diagnostic ultrasound and IT business.

"It amplifies the strengths of ultrasound and CT while minimizing their weaknesses," she said.

While ultrasound provides immediate visual feedback, the connection between the image and the actual appearance of anatomy leaves a lot to be desired. CT, on the other hand, generates anatomical images with easily recognizable features. But its dependence on x-rays and the length of time needed to do interventions restrict its clinical value.

Volume Navigation merges the best of both, as a GPS-like function allows the interventionalist to visually track the position of an instrument in real-time in the anatomical context provided by CT or MR.

Underlying Volume Navigation is a new ultrasound platform, which serves as the foundation for the company's still-to-be-unveiled Expert series (ergo the E designation) of ultrasound equipment, according to Bresenham. Its new Agile architecture and beamformer provides enhanced image uniformity by allowing high data rates and increased processing power, putting in place the horsepower to break new ground.

Software-based tools, combined with the company's advanced E-Series transducers, gather and process the data, which are stored in raw form to allow reprocessing as part of a "virtual" rescanning function built into the system. Increased penetration and sensitivity, made possible in part by a new acoustic amplifier built into the transducers, allow visualization of structures even in obese patients, Bresenham said.The Agile platform extends these capabilities by defining the context of the data to be acquired. Before starting the scan, the user can match a clinical model to the anatomy to be visualized. This model then serves as a guide for algorithms to adjust parameters of the scan to compensate for the interaction between tissues and ultrasound waves.

"The machine knows if I'm doing a liver study," Bresenham said, "and it makes allowances for acoustical interactions with the tissues involved in this kind of study."

A workflow optimization program, called Scan Assistant, streamlines routine examinations by reducing the number of keystrokes needed to perform functions. Internal studies suggest that Scan Assistant can cut the number of keystrokes by 79% and exam time by 54% by automatically making and recording measurements, for example, or steering color Doppler to create optimal images.

All this power did not come cheap. The company spent $82 million developing the technology behind this new level of performance, Bresenham said.

Customers of the Logiq E9 can expect to pay a premium to obtain it, more than $200,000 for the system, or 30% to 40% more than the current price of radiology systems. The company took its first two orders for the Logiq E9 in late August. Shipping was scheduled to begin by the end of September.

-By Greg Freiherr