Medison tightens technological grip on dynamic volumetric ultrasound

January 9, 2002

Even new BW system features 3DWith enhancements to its SonoAce 9900 and the introduction of new mid- and low-range products at the RSNA meeting, Medison has consolidated its position in 3D ultrasound. Questions about how the Korean

Even new BW system features 3D

With enhancements to its SonoAce 9900 and the introduction of new mid- and low-range products at the RSNA meeting, Medison has consolidated its position in 3D ultrasound. Questions about how the Korean vendor of ultrasound products would fare after selling its interest in Austrian 3D pioneer Kretztechnik (SCAN 9/5/01) seem academic, as the company now lays claim to four systems capable of volumetric scanning and is hinting at the release of a new 3D flagship product in the spring.

The midrange multispecialty SonoAce 8000, one of the RSNA meeting introductions, was scheduled to begin shipping in December. The 8000 system includes a variety of 3D functions, harmonic imaging, pulsed inversion harmonics, and multibeam processing built into an ergonomically designed platform. Two separate versions of the product are optimized for ob/gyn imaging. SonoAce 8000 Live includes limited 3D functions for abdominal and vaginal imaging. SonoAce 8000 EX supports only 2D imaging.

An enhanced version of SonoAce 9900, which cleared the FDA in September (SCAN 9/5/01), features real-time 3D, pulse inversion harmonics, stress echo, and a multiplane transesophageal echocardiography probe for cardiac study. The Windows NT2000-based system comes with an integrated DICOM-compatible workstation, which manages images using SonoView Pro software. The two are designed for multispecialty applications including general imaging, obstetrics, gynecology, perinatology, cardiology, vascular, small parts, and musculoskeletal.

At the low end of the spectrum, Medison offers the 128 BW, so named because of its gray-scale, 128-channel architecture and also scheduled to begin shipping in December. Like other products in the Medison lineup, the newly released 128 BW includes features not necessarily expected from a lower cost unit. Among them are harmonic imaging and freehand 3D. Accompanying these systems at Medison's RSNA show booth was the SonoAce II, which permits freehand 3D imaging.

The SonoAce 9900 stood out not only for its technical capabilities but also for its price. The system sells for less than $100,000 with three probes.

"We've taken 90% of the functionality of a high-end system and put it into a midrange product, giving it the high-end features," said Dennis Wisher, director of education for Medison.

The strength of the SonoAce 9900 is its automatic acquisition technology, which enables acquisition of patient anatomy as 3D volume data without the need to move the probe. Instead, an electronic array that moves through the scanning transducer. In addition to providing scan uniformity, the moving array enables the performance of endovaginal and prostate exams.

"That's one of the things that separates us from 99% of the companies," Wisher said. "Because of the way we acquire data about the anatomy, we're able to measure any anatomy of interest within that data set."

Other features built into the SonoAce 9900 include quantitative 3D multiplanar display, which provides simultaneous visualization of three orthogonal scan planes. Each scan plane can be rotated around the three axes to provide the optimal diagnostic perspective. The exact spatial relationships demonstrated in the multiplanar display allow the calculation of more accurate volume measurements, according to the company. Patient anatomy can be reviewed as a 3D volume at any time, even after the patient has left.

"If you want to use your system as a diagnostic tool, you need two things: an automatic acquisition, meaning you don't have to move the transducer, and a quantitative multiplanar display," Wisher said. "If I were taking a picture of you, I'd see you from the front, from a profile, and from a transverse view-simultaneously. This is what gives you the diagnostic benefit."

Medison is keeping its newest development under wraps, at least for the time being. Some time in spring the company plans to unveil a new premium system designed for a broad range of applications. Company executives are offering few details, stating only that the as-yet-unnamed product will offer state-of-the-art image quality and 3D imaging, utilizing a 6.4-inch touchscreen panel optimized to improve diagnostic workflow.