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The pros and cons of 3T dominated discussions at each of the last few RSNA meetings but not the one in 2005. Vendors reached out in new ways, some to embrace clinical applications in the breast and heart and others to introduce functions aimed at boosting productivity, including software for operating MR by remote.
Aurora Imaging Technology offers a dedicated 1.5T breast MRI, featuring a 64-cm magnet bore and an enlarged elliptical focal point that enables imaging of both breasts, lymph nodes, and a segment of the chest in a single bilateral scan. Enhancements shown at the RSNA meeting boost the diagnostic power of the system.
Oriented toward supporting biomedical research, Bruker has developed high- and ultrahigh-field scanners, collaborating with Siemens on the integration of its Total image matrix (Tim) technology into these systems. The recent development of a scalable receiver and transmitter architecture will enable new MRI applications in preclinical research and molecular imaging. The new architecture promises a fourfold increase in resolution, an expanded dynamic range, and raises signal-to-noise ratios. An order of magnitude increase in digital receiver bandwidth speeds up the acquisition times.
The Italian developer of extremity scanners chose Hologic to distribute in the U.S. two systems, the C-Scan and E-Scan. The two were featured at the Hologic RSNA booth in 2005. A third, Esaote's G-Scan, is an open scanner designed to image the limbs, joints. and spine. It tilts to place the patient in any position from supine to standing. The scanner, introduced by Esaote already at the 2004 RSNA meeting, has been installed in Europe and has received FDA clearance for marketing in the U.S. It has not yet been installed in the U.S., however, nor has Esaote assigned G-Scan as one of the systems to be distributed by Hologic.
The maverick of MR, Fonar is the only single-modality company still playing in this arena. It has carved a niche in orthopedic applications, particularly as they relate to the spine. The company's argument that its Upright MR provides information about patients in the standing position that cannot be obtained in the supine has won enough converts that the 100th such system was sited on Dec. 29. Fonar sought at the 2005 RSNA meeting to extend this argument to cardiac applications.
GE upgraded its high-end MR offerings and added an economically oriented 1.5T system. High-density coils developed for the company's previously launched HD 3T system were integrated into the new 3T system. GE plans to continue offering the HD 3T.
Hitachi made its mark a decade ago in open MR scanning by releasing a succession of high-performance low-field scanners. After several abortive efforts to productize high-field MRs, the company in 2005 brought to market a system that may be well suited to the tastes of North American customers. Hitachi also released low-field open enhancements.
In 2005, the company released a nonmagnetic infusion pump designed for use in fields including 3T. IRadimed enhanced the capability of this device, called the 3850 MRidium Pump, with two new accessories at the RSNA meeting. One, a remote control option, is designed to allow staff to view and control the pump without staying in the MR suite during the scan. The second accessory, the 1057 MRidium Vented Syringe Adapter IV Set, allows delivery of small doses from 10 to 60 mL while using only 4 mL to prime the micr-bore tubing set.
The developer of MR contrast infusion pumps exhibited its next-generation Continuum MR Compatible Infusion System. The system provides measurements for an expanded selection of medications, sedatives, and anesthetic agents. New ease-of-use features reduce the potential for confusion and programming errors.
Minneapolis-based MR Instruments is leveraging proprietary technology, built on transverse electromagnetic properties, to create MR coils for use at 3T and above. The company made its first appearance at the 2005 RSNA meeting, displaying the technology under the brand Cheetah Coils. The 15-element head coils, designed for use on GE and Siemens 3T systems, were shown alongside 3T extremity coils available in large, medium, and small sizes. The company also announced the release in early 2006 of multichannel, transmit/receive, and multinuclei coils. The coils promise to generate up to 30% more signal and use 40% to 60% less energy than head coils now shipping with 3T scanners. Improved performance means shorter scan times, better images, and improved patient safety.
The company's OrthOne dedicated extremity scanner is the only one of its type with a 1T field. The company showcased the system with a new operating system that speeds data flow and a knee coil that offers improved signal-to-noise. More than 75 OrthOne systems have been installed worldwide.
Fitting scanners of differing field strength in the same compact frame has been a hallmark of Philips for a decade and a half. It is part of a broader focus on space management that has led the company to create patient-friendly scanners and environments, as well as easy-to-use technologies for the staff. The company has the only 1T open MR scanner, which is bolstered by two lower field open systems and the Achieva series of closed-bore 1.5T and 3T systems.
Tim, the Total imaging matrix that serves as the foundation for advanced applications on Magnetom scanners, is the center of Siemens' MR universe. The technology has migrated throughout the company's high-performance scanners and is the focus of discussions on Siemens 3T and 1.5T products. The company complemented this coil technology with new software and clinical capabilities.
The U.S. arm of Toshiba had long depended on its low-field open MR scanner, the 0.35T Ultra (and its predecessor Opart) for revenues from the MR market. That changed a few years ago with the commercialization of the 1.5T Vantage, an ultrashort-bore system. Much of the attention in the Toshiba booth during the 2005 RSNA meetings was focused on hardware and software advances affecting Vantage.