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Multislice scanning enters lowest tier of CT products


GE expands offerings for the budget consciousGE Medical Systems unveiled two new CT scanners March 1 at the European Congress of Radiology in Vienna. Both are designed for customers who want to perform multislice scanning but have

GE expands offerings for the budget conscious

GE Medical Systems unveiled two new CT scanners March 1 at the European Congress of Radiology in Vienna. Both are designed for customers who want to perform multislice scanning but have not been able to do so because equipment prices have been too high.

The entry-level HiSpeed CT/e Dual has a sticker price of just $350,000. The dual-slice scanner is one step above its single-slice predecessor, the CT/e, which will remain in the GE product line. The second introduction, the HiSpeed QX/i, is a midtier product. This quad-slice system is positioned above the HiSpeed NX/i and HiSpeed X/i.

"We now have a multislice scanner in every segment," said Jean Michel Malbrancq, GE's general manager of CT marketing and sales for Europe. "The CT/e Dual brings multislice scanning to a segment that had not been able to afford it before. The QX/i provides faster scanning and more coverage to the midtier."

The midtier and entry-level offerings, both of which are scheduled to begin shipping globally in June, reflect increasing capabilities at the high end of multislice CT. Last summer, GE released an eight-slice version of its flagship LightSpeed Ultra. At the RSNA meeting last November, the company announced a 16-slice configuration, which should begin shipping in the second half of 2002.

Philips and Siemens have their own 16-slice scanners, which acquire data by mechanically rotating an x-ray tube and detector around the patient. Mechanical scanners, however, cannot match the ultrahigh performance of GE's C300, an electron-beam system dedicated to cardiac imaging. It joined the GE family late last year after GE finalized its acquisition of South San Francisco-based Imatron.

The HiSpeed CT/e Dual and HiSpeeds QX/i fall well below premium performance systems. The new dual-slice scanner offers rotational speeds of 1- and 1.5-seconds compared with a half-second on advanced versions of the LightSpeed. The new quad-slice QX/i is a little faster than the new dual-slice scanner, but its 0.7-second rotation speed still falls short of GE's top of the line.

Engineers did not scrimp on image quality, however, which GE executives said is comparable across product lines, regardless of performance level. The CT/e Dual, for example, delivers submillimeter resolution, as do all GE multislice CT scanners.

All of the company's CT systems, including the two new offerings, are also compatible with GE's Advantage Workstation, where postprocessing algorithms can be used to squeeze as much clinical potential from the data as possible. Customers buying either of the new systems, however, will have less clinical flexibility than users of eight- or 16-slice scanners. Data acquired using the entry-level CT/e Dual system are compatible with limited postprocessing options, for example, in volumetric imaging and MR angiography. The new scanners do not provide the same body coverage, which is constrained by the slower gantry rotation and fewer slices. But budget-conscious customers probably will not be interested in advanced applications, and this should not be a problem, said Peter Arduini, general manager of GE's global CT business.

"The goal with the CT/e Dual is to provide a great entry point for customers to get into the core applications of multislice scanning, which primarily involve neuroimaging," he said. "The QX/i provides a full range of quad-slice applications."

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