Pushing 64-slice CTs, vendors promote less powerful scanners as place keepers

November 30, 2004

The drum beat for the next generation of CT scanners began the moment visitors to the RSNA meeting set foot on the exhibit floor Sunday. Siemens, GE, Philips, and Toshiba are either shipping 64-slice scanners or plan to do so next year. At the RSNA meeting, Toshiba is focusing primarily on its 64-slice scanner, which is now in full production, while offering its 32-slice version, also in production, as an economical alternative. The Aquilion 32 is priced at $200,000 below the $1.5 million list price of the Aquilion 64.

The drum beat for the next generation of CT scanners began the moment visitors to the RSNA meeting set foot on the exhibit floor Sunday. Siemens, GE, Philips, and Toshiba are either shipping 64-slice scanners or plan to do so next year. At the RSNA meeting, Toshiba is focusing primarily on its 64-slice scanner, which is now in full production, while offering its 32-slice version, also in production, as an economical alternative. The Aquilion 32 is priced at $200,000 below the $1.5 million list price of the Aquilion 64.

Owners of Toshiba Aquilion 32 CTs will need only to expand the number of data channels to match the 64-element Quantum detector that ships with the 32-slice Aquilion. Philips is also promising field upgradability. The company has designed its Brilliance CT family to allow a 40-slice detector to be swapped for one with 64 elements.

Vendors made similar claims of field upgradability six years ago when they launched their quad-slice scanners. While it was technically possible to do - and some vendors claim to have actually done a few - field upgrades to eight or 16 slices were tedious and time-consuming. With prompting from vendors, most customers opted for "gantry swaps," which meant replacing old systems with new ones. This time will be different, said Doug Ryan, director of Toshiba's CT business unit, in an interview with Diagnostic Imaging.

The 64-slice scanners promise to be game changers, offering extraordinary speed in radiological applications and clarity in coronary CT angiography. But the advantages will come at a price, as early adopters pay the unprecedented sum of $1.5 million per CT and reinvigorate the market. For less well heeled customers, vendors are promoting alternatives: 16-, 10-, six-, quad-, and dual-slice scanners. Some have been outfitted for general-purpose imaging; others were built for very specific purposes.

Philips introduced in October a 16-slice scanner called the Brilliance CT Private Practice CV, oriented toward cardiologists. Philips, Siemens, and GE have developed wide-bore multislice scanners designed for the oncology market, promising increased accuracy and faster throughput than can be achieved with single-slice scanners typically used for planning radiation therapy.

Toshiba joined in Sunday, unveiling the Aquilion LB (large bore), a work-in-progress 16-slice scanner. The system will top competitors in patient comfort and clinical utility with its 90-cm bore, 85-cm display field-of-view, and a 70-cm acquired FOV, said Michael Macleod, Toshiba product manager for CT oncology.