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Siemens last week unveiled a new premium performance ultrasound scanner, Sonoline Antares, which may be notable as much for its ergonomic design as its state-of-the-art digital components.Traditionally, vendors focus on the operational aspects of a new
Siemens last week unveiled a new premium performance ultrasound scanner, Sonoline Antares, which may be notable as much for its ergonomic design as its state-of-the-art digital components.
Traditionally, vendors focus on the operational aspects of a new scanner: its high-speed processor, signal acquisition capabilities, or wide-band multifrequency transducers. Antares has all these, but the real news is that it was designed for ease of use and handling.
Antares is the first new Siemens product released since Siemens and Acuson merged operations in 2000. The combined entity invested two million employee hours in the development of Antares, seeding the product with advanced technologies from both companies. Among them is the Crescendo programmable digital processor, which is the heart of Siemens’ Sonoline Elegra.
Antares, which Siemens claims has the smallest footprint of any device in its class, will sell for between $150,000 and $200,000. The Acuson Sequoia, which sells for between $200,000 and $300,000, will remain the company’s high-end system, followed by the Antares. The Siemens Elegra and Acuson Aspen will remain in the product line, at least for the time being, said Bill Carrano, vice president of worldwide marketing for Siemens Ultrasound.
Siemens will begin delivering its new “ergodynamic” system at the end of July. The kickoff comes six months after Siemens received FDA clearance to begin marketing the product in the U.S. Siemens representatives unveiled the system to its European sales and applications force in early July, completed a similar unveiling for Asia Pacific and Australia the following week, and rolled it out for North America in mid-July.
According to company officials, Antares addresses several concerns that Siemens identified by listening to ultrasound users: the need to increase diagnostic confidence, the desire for portability without compromised performance, greater connectivity, and the shortfall of sonographers that the company attributes in part to repetitive stress injuries incurred on the job.
“We basically put some very advanced high-speed processing power into a small package,” Carrano said. “When you first look at it you say, ‘Wow, it’s tiny-what can it do?’ I view this as the next generation of ultrasound platforms in terms of performance and size.”
Key to the system’s performance is its high-speed digital electronics, which the company claims enhances signal processing capacity and diagnostic confidence. Features include dedicated processing channels for each transducer, intelligent adaptive digital signal processing algorithms for improved imaging performance, and ultrafine digitization of the radio-frequency signal.
But the softer side, Antares’ ergodynamic design, should not be underestimated, Carrano said.
“The system dynamically adjusts to the user,” he said. “It remembers your previous decisions and eliminates unnecessary keystrokes.”
Additionally, Antares’ array transducers are lightweight. Heavy, bulky transducers tend to induce or aggravate repetitive stress injuries, Carrano said.
“We’ve made the transducers very light and the cables extremely supple. Operators have told us they’re very flexible, very pliable, and very soft on the wrist and hand. The transducers are certainly user friendly,” he said.
Dr. Nandkumar Rawool, a research associate at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, previewed the system. Rawool was impressed by its portability, high-end image quality, and user friendliness.
“Antares delivers on the promise of a smaller system with high-end image quality,” he said. “Its overall image quality is of prime importance-the bells and whistles are nice, but what’s really important is the image quality. Sonoline Antares matches up with any of the high-end systems.”
Because of the system’s user-friendly control panel design, Rawool predicted that sonographers would have to stretch less to operate the system, reducing wear and tear.
Carrano would not say how many systems the company hopes to ship during the months remaining in the fiscal year. However, he expects sales to be brisk.
“I think it’s going to be a real hot seller,” he said.