This year¹s RSNA meeting held few surprises in MR, as manufacturers updated prospective customers on progress in equipment development but unveiled no new systems. Despite more than
This year¹s RSNA meeting held few surprises in MR, as manufacturers updated prospective customers on progress in equipment development but unveiled no new systems. Despite more than two years of talk, the commercial release of 1T open scanners remains elusive, as the promoters of this technology continue to clinically validate their equipment.
Siemens¹ Rhapsody is operating at only one clinical site, in Germany, although a second unit is scheduled for U.S. installation by February. Philips¹ Panorama 1T is running, but only at Philips. The commercial absence of these systems has allowed GE and Hitachi to pitch their 0.7T scanners as the market¹s only higher field open products.
The 3T segment was noteworthy at the RSNA exhibit more for the effects of consolidation than for technological progress, as the first fatality of Philips¹ acquisition of Marconi surfaced. Philips executives announced their decision to continue developing their Intera 3T whole-body product and to drop Marconi¹s version. Intera 3T is still pending FDA clearance. Siemens¹ whole-body Trio has passed FDA review, but is not yet in production. GE executives leaped on that fact, pointing out that their 3T whole-body system had been commercially available for much of 2001.
For the most part, vendors seemed content with the status quo, offering iterative upgrades, shuffling products, or naming works in progress. Standouts included GE¹s repackaging of the 1.5 and 1T MR/i as Infinity, a name change based largely on new software; Philips¹ decision to classify the Infinion 1.5T scanner as ³open,² despite its conventional, albeit ultracompact, cylindrical bore; and the rash of names (GE¹s ASSET, Siemens¹ iPAT, Toshiba¹s SPEEDER) coined to describe proprietary versions of sensitivity encoding. Philips first popularized the technique as SENSE. True to form for this RSNA meeting, shipping dates for the new sensitivity encoding technologies range from mid- to late 2002.
Aurora Imaging Technologies
The only maker of a dedicated MR mammography scanner, Aurora has focused primarily on demonstrating the clinical validity of its 0.5T system. The scanner, which includes a 64-cm bore and can image patients up to 500 pounds, has been installed at five clinical centers across the U.S.
Esaote has supplied scanners to Lunar since 1993. The relationship continued after GE Medical Systems acquired Lunar in 2000, allowing GE Lunar to sell Esaote-built dedicated extremity scanners in the U.S. while the Italian manufacturer sells them in other world markets. Esaote has also continued supplying Siemens with one of these products (E-Scan), which has been modified slightly to create the Magnetom Jazz.
Fueled by civil court judgments and out-of-court settlements with major manufacturers, the company has brought several new scanners into production in recent years, notably its stand-up MRI, called Indomitable. It was among six products the company featured at the meeting.
GE Medical Systems
The company has assembled one of the most comprehensive product offerings in the industry, including cylindrical whole-body scanners available at 3, 1.5, and 1T, as well as open systems at 0.35 and 0.7T.
Hitachi Medical Systems of America
The company that popularized the open scanner strummed familiar chords at the RSNA meeting, focusing on enhancements to its midfield open products, particularly the Airis II, and its most recent release, the higher field open Altaire.
Last year the privately held start-up unveiled an ultracompact 1T extremity scanner. After working out the kinks uncovered at three clinical beta sites, the company has given the green light for full production to begin in early 2002.
Philips Medical Systems
With its acquisition of Marconi Medical Systems, Philips now lays claim to the widest selection of MR technologies, although several of these are works in progress. All members of Philips¹ family of Intera systems fit within the same compact footprint. Leading its line of open products is the Infinion 1.5T, an ultracompact cylindrical system, the in-house-designed Panorama 1T, and Marconi-designed 0.6T Infinion HFO (high field open), both of which are works in progress, and the 0.2T Panorama that Marconi was supplying to Philips prior to the acquisition.
Siemens Medical Solutions
Products include the Allegra dedicated 3T head scanner, a work-in-progress 3T whole-body system called Trio, the Sonata 1.5T dedicated cardiac system, 1.5T general-purpose Symphony, 1T Harmony, 0.2T Concerto, 0.2T Jazz (supplied by Esaote), and the work-in-progress 1T Rhapsody. The syngo user interface is common to all these systems.
Toshiba America Medical Systems
The Opart superconducting open-style 0.35T scanner saved Toshiba from obscurity in the mid-1990s. The company continues to enhance the product while seeking access to the high-field segment through the use of quiet technology built into its 1.5T Excelart Pianissimo, first shown at the 1999 RSNA meeting.