Regulatory hurdles are behind the three major CT vendors, and the industry is moving nearly in lockstep to produce a commercial 16-slice capability in the coming months. The
Regulatory hurdles are behind the three major CT vendors, and the industry is moving nearly in lockstep to produce a commercial 16-slice capability in the coming months. The companies reported at the RSNA meeting FDA clearance of proprietary 16-slice technologies that will bolster speed and resolution by true volumetric reconstruction.
Siemens¹ Sensation 16, previously dubbed x32 because the detector would generate 32 slices per second, cleared reviewers just days before the 2001 meeting. GE also announced FDA clearance of its 16-slice LightSpeed detector. Marconi¹s Infinite Detector Technology had passed FDA muster in September. (The company was then absorbed by Philips, which inherited a leading role in the CT market segment by virtue of the newly rebranded Mx8000.) Toshiba America remains back in the pack, showcasing a work-in-progress 16-slice detector and a futuristic 256-slice detector that is years away from production.
This seemingly frenetic pace of developmentboth technological and corporateis actually more like a marathon than a sprint. Marconi, Philips, and Siemens have been leading customers on for more than a year with promises of 16-slice scanners. Only GE bolted, focusing instead at the 2000 RSNA meeting on an intermediate eight-slice scanner, which the company delivered earlier this year and touted at this year¹s meeting as the most advanced capability in hand. Some 158 units are already operating, executives said.
They may have a point. Although Philips, Siemens, and Toshiba highlighted their 16-slice technologies, no one is ready to begin shipping them. That will not happen until later in 2002.
GE Medical Systems
Company executives have hammered for years on their concept of an upgradable continuum of CT scanners. This year¹s swarm of 16-slice works-in-progress by competitors played into GE¹s hands.
Philips Medical Systems
Usually, companies upgrade equipment. It was the other way around for the Mx8000, which transformed Philips from a noncompetitor in the multislice segment to a world leader. In addition to technology, Philips gained critical engineering expertise and a strategic alliance with Siemens from its acquisition of Marconi Medical Systems.
Shimadzu Medical Systems
Value-oriented products have been characteristic of this company, which offers three distinct product lines: the high-performance SCT-7800T, midtier SCT-6800T, and low-tier SCT-4800T. All are single-slice scanners. Although Shimadzu has for several years integrated slip-ring technology into its more advanced models, the company has not yet developed a multislice detector.
Siemens Medical Systems
With the introduction of 16-slice scanning near at hand, the German company renamed its high-end multislice scanners the Sensation family. A quad-slice version will be offered alongside the Sensation 16. A dual-slice version of the midtier Emotion product, which was introduced at the 2000 RSNA meeting, offers a low-cost alternative. A step below is Balance, a one-second rotation, single-slice scanner that can be upgraded to a multislice Emotion configuration with 0.8 second rotational speed. The modular single-slice Smile is a low-end product offering a two-second gantry rotation.
Toshiba America Medical Systems
Japanese engineers continue to evolve Toshiba¹s multislice capability. Like most others in the industry, the company has chosen to leapfrog from quad- to 16-slice capability. Toshiba boasts the widest selection of multislice scanners, offering the premium performance quad-slice Aquilion and two quad-slice versions of its midtier Asteion product line. These two products, which can also be configured as single-slice scanners, differ primarily in the strength of their generators and x-ray tubes. The company also offers the low-cost single-slice Asteion VF 36.