New firm promises improved 3-D imaging

May 6, 1992

A three-dimensional image construction process used by scientistsand geophysicists in seismic surveying may become the basis fora new 3-D ultrasound scanner. Although approvals are pending fromthe Food and Drug Administration, Irvine, CA-based Sartis

A three-dimensional image construction process used by scientistsand geophysicists in seismic surveying may become the basis fora new 3-D ultrasound scanner. Although approvals are pending fromthe Food and Drug Administration, Irvine, CA-based Sartis Onepromises to deliver a system that will improve imaging standards,deliver images as close to real-time as possible, and remain cost-effective.

The term "Sartis" is an acronym that stands for syntheticaperture real-time imaging systems. The company's system is alsoknown as Sartis One, indicating the first of what could developinto a series of models.

One of the firm's most stunning claims is that Sartis can provide3-D imaging with a resolution of 10 microns--about 100 times greaterthan the 1-mm resolution quality available through CT or MRI.

Sartis also claims that its system can produce images of allbody parts including bone, teeth and soft tissue in seconds, asopposed to the standard 20 to 45 minutes associated with CT andMRI systems. The real-time images are produced using parallelprocessors that run at a clock speed of two billion instructionsper second (BIPS). The system is also capable of providing continuousmotion imaging of the heart, valves, arteries, joints, musclesand tendons.

The Sartis system uses ultrasound waves to generate billionsof acoustical reflections, which are recorded and used to constructthe surface images.

Sartis One is based on a 3-D seismic surveying method thatcan identify different layers of rock up to 45,000 feet belowthe earth's surface. The technique, used primarily for oil exploration,was developed by Robert Fort, the company's vice president ofresearch and development, and senior scientist Dr. Norman Neldell.

The Sartis One system differs from other forms of 3-D imagingbecause of the firm's synthetic aperture focusing system. "It'svery different because all of the focusing is done on a computerrather than focusing with a ray," Fort said.

Sartis claims their system is as safe as ultrasound for fetalmonitoring, and safer than MRI or x-ray-based CT scanning.

The company is preparing installation of a series of beta-sitetests, Fort said. Once the system receives the necessary approvals,he believes that the first prototype could be on the market asearly as July. The beta-site tests are scheduled to take placeat Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston--a teaching affiliateof Harvard Medical School--and the University of California atIrvine.

Sartis will not sell its system, but will market it on a per-scanbasis. Although Fort declined to speculate on the fees for usingthe system, each Sartis system will be able to provide imagingfor 50 patients a day.

Sartis has reached agreement with Medical Imaging Softwareto market the system. Medical Imaging has agreed to obtain contractswith 200 hospitals to install Sartis One during the first yearfollowing the system's approval.

Sartis was incorporated in 1990, after operating for eightyears as a think-tank group under the auspices of UC Irvine. Duringthat period, Fort claims that funding for Sartis totaled a mere$4 million. The amount is said to include money from outside investors,many of them from Canada, and University of California fellowshipstotaling about $500,000.

In addition to Fort and Neldell, Sartis' development team includedsDr. Jack Sklansky, scientist in charge of pattern recognition,Douglas Morgan as principal engineer, and Dr. James P. Steele,who serves as an industry and government liaison consultant.

Management of Sartis One is handled by T.J. Davis, chairmanand president, and Ronald van Schlitt, vice president.