Siemens and Philips set to unveil multislice-capable CT scanners

November 10, 1999

Vendors formalize strategies for multislice technologyActivity in the multislice CT market continues to heat up. Philips Medical Systems and Siemens Medical Systems will unveil a total of four new CT scanners at this month’s annual meeting of

Vendors formalize strategies for multislice technology

Activity in the multislice CT market continues to heat up. Philips Medical Systems and Siemens Medical Systems will unveil a total of four new CT scanners at this month’s annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. Each product will serve as an integral piece in the multislice scanning strategies being hatched by the two companies.

Two midpriced systems from Siemens, the Somatom Emotion and Somatom Balance, will be plugged into the bottom end of the company’s spiral-capable product line. The spiral systems will ultimately be upgradeable to the company’s existing multislice capability, embodied by the Somatom Plus 4 Volume Zoom.

Philips will be starting fresh with its CT Aura and CT Secura, which are built on a common platform. They will serve as the basis of Philips’s multislice scanning efforts in the future.

The Siemens offerings are designed to give prospective customers choices at differing performance levels. The gantry for Emotion rotates once in 800 milliseconds; that of the Balance in one second. But the commonalities of the two systems may be more interesting than their differences. Both are built to conserve space by packing the electronics that would otherwise be put in cabinets into their gantries. As a result, each system comprises just gantry and table.

“We’ve got really good siting. No cabinets. Life is easy,” said John Sandstrom, director of strategic marketing and computed tomography at Siemens Medical Systems of Iselin, NJ.

Remarkably, the gantries are actually thinner than those of other CT products in the Siemens line. The smaller gantries promise improved patient comfort and access, which will be particularly important when conducting interventional procedures, according to Sandstrom. Although the gantries are not compatible with the Somatom Plus 4 Volume Zoom, owners of Emotion and Balance will be able to reach the Plus 4 and multislice performance levels.

“These systems are a family, so they’re completely upgradeable,” he said. “All Somatoms can be upgraded.”

As initially configured, the Emotion and Balance will come with an advanced x-ray imaging system, called PowerTrain. Also standard will be the company’s dose-optimizing UltraFast Ceramic detector technology.

The CT Secura will stand at the top of the Philips line of products. Just below this premium system in the Philips hierarchy will be the CT Aura. Philips describes the Secura as being designed for customers in highly competitive environments who need a high-tier system. The Aura, on the other hand, is designed for those with demanding clinical needs and a sensitivity to x-ray dose and cost.

Common to both is a basic platform that will serve as the foundation for the company’s multislice capability. With this platform available, Philips engineers are now focused on optimizing the specific components necessary for multislice imaging.

“We are working on the reconstruction and data management technology, the detector and image-quality specifications,” said Janet Collins, North American business unit director for Shelton, CT-based Philips.

A principal development not yet completed is the multirow detector, which drives multislice acquisition. This detector, which could be available as early as next year, is being designed to allow in-field upgrades of installed systems.

“The hardware is prepared to accept a multi-array detector,” said Irene Jemczyk, Philips CT sales support. “It’s not going to be a forklift upgrade.”

As with the new Siemens products, a chief discriminator between the new Philips products is speed of gantry rotation. The Secura rotates once in 700 milliseconds. The Aura completes one rotation per second. The two will also be distinguished by x-ray systems compatible with the differing rotational speeds. The Secura will come equipped with a 7.7-million-heat-unit tube (MHU); the Aura with a 3-MHU tube.

Simplicity was a guiding principle in the design of the Aura and Secura, as the two systems include the same functionality that is built into the Philips EasyVision workstations, including postprocessing capabilities and workflow management tools, as well as seamless integration with information technology systems. Data networked from other modalities can also be accessed and processed at the dual-monitor console.

“There is no need for an additional workstation,” Collins said. “And because the user interface of the two systems is identical, we have seen users get comfortable with their operation within a few hours.”

These introductions by Philips and Siemens reflect the growing pressure being exerted by the industry to evolve multislice scanning. Clinical applications will determine the direction of this evolution, but there is little doubt that clinical areas that have long been outside the reach of CT, such as cardiology, are the final goal.

“The question is, how are we going to change the dynamics of the marketplace, which is driven by the dynamics of the way disease is diagnosed?” Siemens’s Sandstrom said.

As Philips’ gateway products to this arena, the Secura and Aura represent a jumping off point for the company. The introduction of Emotion and Balance completes the strategic picture for Siemens. Perhaps most important, the presence of these four systems demonstrates that upgradeable product families, rather than an assemblage of unrelated units with differing capabilities, will be a major strategic thrust of the industry.