Hitachi prepares to storm the U.S. market with multislice CTs

April 1, 2005

Many patients have been scanned using Hitachi-made CT scanners, but most didn't know it, at least in the U.S. For many years, Hitachi CT scanners, considered among the most reliable of any used in North America, were sold under the Philips label. Hitachi was pushed out of this marketplace about five years ago, when Philips bought Marconi Medical and no longer needed Hitachi-supplied scanners. Now Hitachi is coming back to the U.S. under its own name.

Many patients have been scanned using Hitachi-made CT scanners, but most didn't know it, at least in the U.S. For many years, Hitachi CT scanners, considered among the most reliable of any used in North America, were sold under the Philips label. Hitachi was pushed out of this marketplace about five years ago, when Philips bought Marconi Medical and no longer needed Hitachi-supplied scanners. Now Hitachi is coming back to the U.S. under its own name.

The first of the company's new breed of scanner, the quadslice CRX4, was installed in January at the HealthSouth Diagnostic Center of Dallas.

"The images are excellent quality, and throughput is very good," said Dr. James Neill, a diagnostic radiologist. "It's especially good at thin sections at the base of the skull and in the cervical regions."

The Hitachi CT installed at HealthSouth has been doing mostly routine studies of the head, neck, and abdomen. Neill expects that the center soon will be performing vascular studies as well, using the 3D rendering capabilities built into the system. Staff also expect increasing demand for pediatric applications in the coming months.

Hitachi is starting small, but its quadslice CRX4 is just the first step. The company plans to launch a 16-slice version in midyear and, eventually, one capable of 64 slices per rotation.

For its first CT offering, Hitachi Medical Systems of America is targeting the owners of its MR scanners. The U.S. marketing arm of the Japanese company is especially interested in imaging centers that don't offer CT or operate antiquated single-slice systems.

HealthSouth Diagnostic Center of Dallas fits the profile. The center offers several modalities: x-ray, fluoroscopy, ultrasound, and open MR, thanks to Hitachi. CT has been notably lacking, a shortcoming now being addressed by the CRX4.

Hitachi appears to be picking up where it left off when the company's CT products were sold under the Philips label. The CRX4 operated as advertised right out of the box, according to CT technologist Sue Leamon. There are occasional quirks, but they were remedied quickly.

"I had a problem crop up last week, and Bernie the service guy was here in 30 minutes and got it fixed," she said.

Two Hitachi applications specialists from headquarters in Japan and one from the U.S. office were onsite the first week after the system was installed. Another visit by a U.S. specialist was being planned at press time to introduce the staff to more advanced applications.