Siemens releases digital gray-scale unit for global ultrasound market

May 18, 2004

Siemens Medical Solutions has unveiled a new addition to its "G" series of Sonoline ultrasound scanners, an all-digital gray-scale product that incorporates features from higher tier systems. The system, which will begin shipping worldwide this month,

Siemens Medical Solutions has unveiled a new addition to its "G" series of Sonoline ultrasound scanners, an all-digital gray-scale product that incorporates features from higher tier systems. The system, which will begin shipping worldwide this month, has been exhibited at professional meetings around the world over the last several weeks, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists meeting May 3-5 in Philadelphia.

The new product, priced under $22,000, is being aimed at small clinics and private offices in the U.S. It will have its greatest impact, however, outside the U.S., according to Lars Shaw, director of marketing for Siemens worldwide general imaging in ultrasound.

"The rollout of these types of systems is a huge event in Europe, Asia, and Latin America," he said.

Siemens chose a late April unveiling to coincide with trade shows in key parts of the world, while allowing enough time for customers to make decisions about the system before the end of the second quarter on June 30. The company hopes the spring release will also allow customers following a more time-consuming bid process to include the G20 before the end of Siemens' fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Despite the low cost of the G20, the stakes surrounding its release are high. Each year tens of thousands of ultrasound systems priced under $50,000 are sold globally, according to Shaw. These systems serve multiple purposes, depending on the country and circumstances in which they operate.

G20 excels at small part and musculoskeletal imaging, as well as ob/gyn procedures of the labor and delivery type, he said. The device can also serve as a tool for ob/gyn evaluations such as gestational imaging through the third trimester and screening for ovarian cysts, pelvic pain, and other abnormalities, according to feedback the company has received from luminaries who have tested the product.

The system is a step up from the Adara, the company's entry-level gray-scale product priced between $15,000 and $20,000. The digital architecture improves gray-scale imaging, and its new beamformer enhances image resolution, uniformity, and penetration.

"G20 takes the best of the Adara and moves the technology ahead," he said.

Standard on the new product are tissue gray-scale optimization (TGO) technology for one-button, automatic optimization of imaging parameters; MultiHertz multiple frequency imaging; and a DIMAQ-IP integrated workstation with built-in CD-R/W drive output and archive exam data.

Although bulkier than handheld ultrasound competitors, the cart-based G20 is lightweight and compact enough to move in and out of small exam spaces or from suite to suite without difficulty. Being on a cart actually provides an advantage over handheld units, such as those made by SonoSite, Shaw said.

"We've heard from Asia and Latin America that if it is not on a cart, clinicians don't necessarily believe you are doing substantial testing," he said. "It's one of the things that can make or break a sale."

Enhanced ergonomics are a major selling point for the G20. Its Windows-based operating system and user interface are intuitively designed. Onscreen menus and the system's ReadySet onscreen workflow shortcuts are designed to improve workflow efficiency. The digital architecture includes embedded connectivity that allows integration into DICOM-enabled networks and PC-based workstations. It also provides the foundation for future software upgrades, some of which will come from other, higher tier, Sonoline products.

"We can take technologies from the G50 or G60 and migrate them to this platform," Shaw said. "The only difference on the G20 will be the level of performance. You will get best-in-class performance, but you are not going to get ultrapremium performance-not on a black-and-white system."