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Site-Rite fills vascular niche in handheld ultrasound marketplace

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Ease of use and simplicity mark the spotBard Access Systems has settled into a comfortable niche in the handheld ultrasound market. Its popular Site-Rite 3, a third-generation ultrasound guidance system for vascular access, helped

Ease of use and simplicity mark the spot

Bard Access Systems has settled into a comfortable niche in the handheld ultrasound market. Its popular Site-Rite 3, a third-generation ultrasound guidance system for vascular access, helped pioneer handheld technology and, in the process, evolved to become a mainstay of the Bard product line.

Site-Rite was among the first handheld ultrasound systems to enter medical practice. The product, which will be 10 years old next year, is sold by 65 direct salespeople at Bard to an estimated 6000 acute-care hospitals in the U.S. Five or more systems may be in use in different departments at a single facility, according to the company. About 1500 units have been sold to interventional radiologists, anesthesiologists, general surgeons, interventional nephrologists, and nurses who do bedside needle placement.

Simple to use and inexpensive--the system sells for about $15,000 with all the bells and whistles--Site-Rite helps guide the placement of needles for vascular punctures. Ultrasound replaces the need for anatomic markers, visualizing vessels to indicate size, location, and patency and guiding placement with real-time imaging.

"We want to offer something that is totally inviting to use," said Amy Paul, president and CEO of Bard Access. "We've got it down to about four buttons."

Salt Lake City-based Bard backed into this marketplace through the acquisition in 1998 of Pittsburgh-based Dymax, which developed the Site-Rite technology. Site-Rite 2 was on the market at the time, and Site-Rite 3 was introduced in early 2001.

Paul said the company's chief competitors are handheld units from SonoSite, namely the SonoSite 180Plus and iLook series. Paul feels little pressure from SonoSite or other ultrasound manufacturers. She believes they either cannot do better than Bard in this market segment or have loftier ultrasound goals that diffuse their focus.

"We estimate the vascular access niche to be somewhere in the $40 million range," she said. "I don't think many other companies are very interested in a niche that size."

That niche could grow, however, as might its appeal. Paul noted that many healthcare providers are still doing blind needle sticks or using anatomical landmarks.

"That means there's a lot of opportunity out there," she said.

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