Strategy and tactics distinguish Philips in CT. Not long ago, the company was a nonplayer in this modality, reliant on suppliers to obtain scanners to sell under the Philips label. That changed in 2002 with the acquisition of Marconi Medical Systems, which transformed Philips into a CT powerhouse. At last year's RSNA meeting, the company leaped beyond the expected 32-slice configuration to offer a 40-slice array rotating at 0.42 second and covering most body organs without motion artifact.
Philips' 40-slice scanner will handle clinical applications while providing an upgrade path to 64 slices in 2005. (Provided by Philips Medical Systems)Strategy and tactics distinguish Philips in CT. Not long ago, the company was a nonplayer in this modality, reliant on suppliers to obtain scanners to sell under the Philips label. That changed in 2002 with the acquisition of Marconi Medical Systems, which transformed Philips into a CT powerhouse. At last year's RSNA meeting, the company leaped beyond the expected 32-slice configuration to offer a 40-slice array rotating at 0.42 second and covering most body organs without motion artifact.A work-in-progress 64-slice scanner is sure to take center stage this year. The company expected to begin taking orders for the scanner in October, with deliveries scheduled to begin by mid-2005.The new flagship will be complemented by Philips' 40-slice system, which started shipping commercially in October, as well as a portfolio of six-, 10-, and 16-slice scanners. Two newly configured 16-slice scanners will expand the mix; one will be dedicated to cardiac applications, and the other, featuring a wide bore, to radiotherapy preparation.Philips' currently available 40-slice premium scanner and the future 64-slice version both offer advantages arising from the 40-mm coverage achieved with their detectors. The resulting faster scans mean shorter breath-holds, less motion artifact, and reduced doses of contrast. The key to the new 64-slice version is the addition of more thin slices, boosting temporal and spatial resolution to the next level.The 40-slice detector sandwiches 0.6-mm slices between 1.2-mm slices on the end. The 64-slice detector covers the entire 40-mm swath with 0.6-mm slices.The enhanced thin-slice capability will have a major effect on the quality of images obtained during coronary CT angiography, said Jim Fulton, Philips' vice president of global marketing for CT. It will also help in assessment of fine structures such as the inner ear, the lung, and even joints.Until the more powerful detector becomes available next year, customers can purchase a 40-slice scanner that can be upgraded to 64 in the field. Unlike previous upgrades from quad to 16 slices, no forklifts will be involved, said Thomas Zan Elzakker, Philips director for radiology CT."If someone buys a 40-slice scanner today, there will be a logical, easy, painless upgrade path to go up the family tree," he said.Although Philips' executives address slices, they insist that there is more to premium-performance CT. Workflow, for instance: At the RSNA show, enhanced workflow will be a selling point for the company's Brilliance Workspace, which establishes the user environment. The newly upgraded Workspace Version 2.0 will allow quick scan setups, check for patient movement, and shepherd the reconstruction of up to 40 images per second.A company-wide dedication to minimizing x-ray dose explains the miserly way the Brilliance administers radiation, Fulton said. Clinical tests conducted at Indiana University showed that the Brilliance 40 is 10% more efficient in delivering dose than the company's 16-slice scanner.Philips' commitment to reducing CT radiation is reflected in DoseWise, a hardware/software package that adjusts the dose while blocking unnecessary x-rays. It also provides information about dose levels so operators can ensure that the appropriate radiation levels are being applied.Radiology versions of the six-, 10-, and 16- slice scanners have been available for much of 2004. The 16-slice system dedicated to cardiac applications began shipping in the fall. The 16-slice wide-bore oncology CT debuted at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology meeting in October. About the same time, the company unveiled the 64-slice configuration at the Journees Francaises de Radiologie meeting in Paris.While all this was going on, the company was ramping up production of its 40-slice scanner. Models began rolling off the assembly line in October. Monthly production was expected to reach the double digits by the time of the RSNA meeting.The company has emphasized clinical development, attempting to determine when and how to use the added power of 40 slices per rotation. Among the clinical highlights to be shown in Chicago are the "zero-click" applications being prepared for the Brilliance Workspace. Opening a study using one of these applications will automatically trigger display and calculation algorithms. Packages now in development address virtual colonoscopy and lung nodule assessment. The need for FDA review of some of these will delay their launch in the U.S., but the company plans to make them available elsewhere in the meantime, Fulton said.A brain perfusion package for evaluating patients suspected of stroke is generating a lot of excitement at Philips. Early results obtained from multicenter trials indicate that the package enables a rapid assessment of the brain that will pinpoint regions of tissue that can be salvaged through the use of clot-busting drugs."We're looking at things that save lives or improve outcome," Zan Elzakker said. "We believe the breakthroughs occur in applications, not in the number of slices."