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Philips introduces 3D ultrasound based on HDI and Kretz technology


Global product launch takes off at ECRFor much of the past decade, diagnostic ultrasound has been the leading application for 3D imaging, and Austria-based Kretztechnik has been at the forefront of that effort. Its scanners use

Global product launch takes off at ECR

For much of the past decade, diagnostic ultrasound has been the leading application for 3D imaging, and Austria-based Kretztechnik has been at the forefront of that effort. Its scanners use transducers to mechanically sweep an area of the body for data that can be reconstructed into virtual volumes onscreen. Now Philips Ultrasound has integrated transducer technology developed by Kretztechnik with its own high-definition imaging (HDI) platform to create a flexible, yet low-cost, real-time 3D system.

The HDI 4000 was unveiled March 1 at the European Congress of Radiology in Vienna as the first part of a global launch. The system was shown for the first time in North America March 10 at the annual meeting of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine in Nashville, TN. Latin American physicians will see the product at professional conferences in Mexico and Brazil later this year.

Philips has packed a lot of power into this very low-cost package, which will begin shipping in April, according to Rick Dugan, product line manager for Philips Ultrasound. The Windows-based product lists for about $90,000 fully configured and is the only system in its price class to offer 4D scanning.

"Specialty ultrasound is a key part of our business," he said. "This includes everything $100,000 and below."

The system supports echocardiography, including multiplanar transesophageal imaging, as well as general-purpose radiology and vascular applications. The new system will be marketed primarily to rural hospitals and freestanding clinics as a shared services product, according to Dugan. Obstetrics is a major application, because of the volumetric capability, called Live 3D.

Building the new device on the HDI platform, the cornerstone upon which ATL has built its flagship ultrasound products since the early 1990s, minimized development time and cost. (Philips acquired ATL in 1998 and is integrating this corporate structure with the Healthcare Solutions Group of Agilent Technologies, which the company purchased in Aug. 1 [SCAN 8/8/01]). Use of the HDI platform ensured that scan heads developed for Philips HDI 5000 would be compatible with the new midtier product, thereby extending the possible range of applications within the reach of the HDI 4000 yet incurring no additional R&D expenses.

Kretztechnik initially developed the technology behind the 4D mechanical sector probe central to Live 3D, which makes the system particularly appealing to obstetricians, a group that has found the most clinical use for volumetric reconstructions. Kretz did not build the probe used on HDI 4000, however. Instead, it was built by Korean ultrasound manufacturer Medison, which until last year owned the Austrian company. Although Kretz is now part of GE Medical Systems, Medison retained rights to the underlying technology. Medison is a major supplier to Philips of high-quality, low-cost ultrasound products and components.

When using Live 3D on the HDI 4000, the operator applies 2D imaging to determine the best angle from which to acquire the volume, holds the probe steady, then triggers the 4D capability, which mechanically sweeps the transducer through a volume of tissue. Up to four volumes can be acquired per second.

Images can be stored on an image management system built into the HDI 4000. These can be exported electronically for viewing on PCs or burned onto CDs for use on other systems or for long-term storage.

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