GE’s BrightSpeed packs more punch in smaller space

November 21, 2005

A decision by GE Healthcare to introduce a new line of compact CT scanners, the BrightSpeed, reflects a major trend in the market toward miniaturization. The new scanners will be unveiled at the RSNA meeting.

A decision by GE Healthcare to introduce a new line of compact CT scanners, the BrightSpeed, reflects a major trend in the market toward miniaturization. The new scanners will be unveiled at the RSNA meeting.

The trend has been especially noteworthy in ultrasound, where systems, spurred by developments at SonoSite, have grown so small they have leaped into the hands of physicians.

The trend is evident among heavy iron products, as well, most notably MR scanners, which began to shrink 15 years ago with the introduction of Philips' compact MR portfolio.

Short-bore MR scanners now vie for patient comfort with open MR scanners. Two short-bore systems have been released in the past two years: Toshiba's Vantage and Siemens' Espree. At the RSNA meeting, Hitachi will join the fray with its short-bore Echelon (see accompanying story, this issue).

Miniaturization has been slow to occur in CT, however. Major vendors have emphasized increasing numbers of slices, culminating with the latest batch of 64-slice scanners. The one exception is Siemens, which this summer introduced its Emotion 16, an air-cooled CT. Eliminating the water chiller, otherwise needed to cool the x-ray tube, makes the system more compact and easier to site.

Now GE has entered the contest to pack more power in a smaller space with BrightSpeed. Offered in quad-, eight-, and 16-slice versions, BrightSpeed delivers the same image quality and productivity as its big brother LightSpeed, but in a package small enough to fit into the space allotted to single-slice scanners.

"Because single-slice products were developed with a small footprint, we have downsized our multislice CTs to better fit that footprint," said Tom Lamoureux, GE marketing manager for BrightSpeed.

BrightSpeed will begin shipping globally early next year. It will be priced comparably with LightSpeed scanners featuring the same number of slices per rotation, according to GE.

Many of the electronics and productivity tools developed for the premier 64-slice LightSpeed VCT have been incorporated into the BrightSpeed. The new scanners feature the Xtream FX workflow platform and the Volara digital data acquisition system (DAS).

Xtream FX, GE's latest workflow technology, includes tools to help imaging departments keep pace with the quantity of data generated by multislice systems. One of the primary Xtream tools is Direct Multi-Planar Reformat (DMPR), which automatically generates views familiar to referring physicians and surgeons.

"As the number of slices has increased, physicians have gotten away from reviewing axial images. Instead they review from reformats," Lamoureux said. "So why not do the reformatting during the acquisition, rather than as an extra step at the end of the acquisition?"

Introduced on the LightSpeed VCT, the Volara 24-bit digital DAS reduces noise as much as 33% compared with the previous DAS. It also takes up much less space, as engineers crammed 64-slice technology into a VCT gantry the size of the original quadslice LightSpeed.

"The DAS is the key piece that needed to be miniaturized as we went from 16 to 64 slices," he said. "Now, as we go back to 16 (or fewer) slices on the BrightSpeed, this translates into a smaller gantry and overall footprint."

GE is still working out exactly how much smaller, stating only that the BrightSpeed will fit better than a LightSpeed in space currently occupied by a single-slice CT, It can meet the goal of providing facilities the chance to upgrade from single-slice CT to a more powerful platform without having to renovate or enlarge their CT rooms.

Company strategists haven't yet decided whether the BrightSpeed portfolio will be expanded beyond its current four-, eight-, and 16-slice versions.

"This is a new platform for us, so we are not ready to predict where it will go," Lamoureux said. "But you will see us do some other things with this platform in the future."