Toshiba prepares to release eight-slice version of Aquilion

August 6, 2003

Company aims for routine delivery in DecemberToshiba America is preparing to introduce an eight-slice CT scanner in the U.S. The Aquilion 8 is already shipping in Japan and could be on the U.S. market by the start of the RSNA

Company aims for routine delivery in December

Toshiba America is preparing to introduce an eight-slice CT scanner in the U.S. The Aquilion 8 is already shipping in Japan and could be on the U.S. market by the start of the RSNA meeting in November.

The new product will fill a gap in the company's Aquilion family between its quad- and 16-slice offerings. The eight-slice scanner, which will list for about $800,000, will be marketed to budget-constrained hospitals, as well as imaging centers, according to Doug Ryan, director of Toshiba's CT business unit. Adding to its appeal will be an inherent upgradability to 16 slices.

"The market is expanding rapidly for products in the $750,000 to $850,000 range," Ryan said. "This product will address this market segment yet provide clients with the ability to meet future needs through a field upgrade to 16 slices."

Siemens and Philips have similar strategies in place. The two companies last year released 10-slice versions of their Philips Mx8000 IDT and Siemens Sensation product lines that can be upgraded in the field to 16 slices without swapping the detector. GE released an eight-slice version of its LightSpeed family two years ago, but this LightSpeed Ultra has a different detector from the company's current LightSpeed Pro 16.

The key to easy field upgradability is the detector, Ryan said. The one onboard Aquilion 8 is the same as that built into Aquilion 16, which delivers 0.5-mm slices. Changes in the x-ray control mechanism, data pipeline, and software boost its ability to deliver 16 rather than eight slices per rotation. A field upgrade to 16 slices will include a new motor that decreases rotational time from 500 msec, which is standard on the Aquilion 8, to 400 msec in the flagship configuration. Details about the Toshiba upgrade kit and its price are being finalized.

Since the first multidetector scanners were introduced commercially five years ago, the market has been flooded with variants on this theme. Collectively, the industry now supplies models that deliver two, four, six, eight, 10, or 16 slices.

Ultimately, the appeal of Aquilion 8, like that of other scanners filling the gap between low- and high-tier multidetector systems, will depend on the market for 16-slice scanners. Industry executives report that street prices for these premium scanners have slipped below the million dollar mark (SCAN 6/11/03).

Soft prices cut into the relative appeal of eight- and 10-slice configurations. Ryan believes, however, the difference in price and the upgradability offered by Aquilion 8 will be enough to make the product successful. Its commercial availability in the U.S. will also give Toshiba more flexibility in bidding on an upcoming contract with the Federal government to supply multidetector CTs to the Department of Veterans Affairs.