Philips' Achieva XR protects 3T fence sitters

Philips Medical Systems has devised a way to put 3T within reach of customers with an MR system configured for 1.5T but upgradeable to 3T.

Philips Medical Systems has devised a way to put 3T within reach of customers with an MR system configured for 1.5T but upgradeable to 3T.

Achieva XR, unveiled this week at the RSNA meeting in Chicago, comprises a magnet capable of generating 3T field strength but which can be set in the beginning to just 1.5T. Upgrading the system a couple of years down the road will involve applying more current to bring the magnet to 3T and swapping the body coil for one compatible with this field strength. The gradients do not have to be changed.

Philips developed Achieva XR for prospective customers who are on the fence about 3T, according to Jacques Coumans, Ph.D., Philips vice president of MR global marketing. It's for those who might believe 3T is the future, but are not yet ready to embrace it, he said.

A version of this field-upgradeable system is running in the Philips factory, according to Coumans, but a clinical unit has not yet been installed. This will happen in the U.S. in February. Full production of the Achieva XR is scheduled for the end of the second quarter of 2007.

Achieva XR provides an opportunity to dally at 1.5T without paying a hefty price later on. In fact, customers might do as well with an Achieva XR lease as they would if they leased a conventional 1.5T scanner, thanks to some creative financing by Philips.

"The fair market value of the asset at the end of the lease is significantly higher for the Achieva XR than it is for a conventional 1.5T scanner," Coumans said. "Hence, the lease payments can be similar, if not equal (to those for a 1.5T device)."

This could even include, he said, future upgrades on the Achieva XR.

A break-even approach that allows a facility to ease into 3T is preferable to the hefty penalty that might be paid by choosing a conventional 1.5T system and then in two or three years swapping that system for one at 3T, according to Coumans. Philips staff have calculated the costs of making such a transition at between $750,000 and a million dollars.

Costs would include twice remodeling a facility, once for 1.5T and again for 3T, as well as value in the 1.5T system lost due to its sale in the market for used equipment, downtime at the site during the transition to 3T, and the likely need to operate a mobile scanner during the changeover.

"All that amounts to a significantly more expensive proposition than choosing the XR system from the get go," he said

Buyers of the Achieva XR will also reap some operating benefits. Its magnet is part of Philips' new X series, which is designed to operate at 3T, and features zero cryogen boil-off, a claim that Coumans said is real. Over the anticipated seven-year life of the system, owners will need to add cryogen only when the system is installed, he said.

The magnet weighs just 4500 kilograms, which is relatively lightweight, compared to other 3T-capable systems, simplifying its installation. Achieva XR also offers a new body coil, accommodating an extended field-of-view to 50 x 50 x 45 cm.

The company has installed about 25 of the X series magnets worldwide, although none has yet been in an Achieva XR configuration.