Ultrasound market treads water waiting for rebound in scanner sales

April 12, 1995

This year's American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine meeting in San Francisco found the diagnosticultrasound industry in a transition phase. By most accounts, theindustry has bottomed out from the drop in new scanner purchasingexperienced in 1993 and

This year's American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine meeting in San Francisco found the diagnosticultrasound industry in a transition phase. By most accounts, theindustry has bottomed out from the drop in new scanner purchasingexperienced in 1993 and 1994. The specter of federal health-carereform is no longer a brake on sales, but that fear has been replacedby uneasiness about the onset of managed care.

Managed care has its greatest impact on purchasing when itis entering a geographic region that is unfamiliar with the concept,according to Samuel Maslak, Acuson president and CEO. As hospitalsgrow accustomed to the new regime, equipment acquisition graduallyreturns.

"People entering the first phase of managed care are veryfearful. They see loss of revenue and they look for expenses tocut," Maslak said. "In the middle and later stages ofmanaged care, people realize they can't cut their way to success."

Ultrasound will eventually have a significant role in managedcare and will grow as it replaces other modalities, accordingto David Perozek, president and COO of ATL.

"As people on the other side of that (managed-care) transitionzone start getting serious about how they control their costs,they are going to look at replacing more expensive diagnosticsor therapies with less expensive protocols," Perozek said."Ultrasound is going to play a major role."

This year's meeting was unique in that scanning of live modelswas allowed on the exhibit floor for the first time since thelate 1980s. The AIUM decided to allow live scanning after severalmajor vendors petitioned the organization.

Acoustic Imaging

  • Acoustic Imaging highlighted a new corporate logo that emphasizedits links to parents Dornier and Daimler-Benz Aerospace. The Phoenixcompany responded to rumors that surfaced last year about thecompany's closure by announcing that it had record income levelsfor the third and fourth quarters of 1994.

  • Featured prominently in AI's booth were Performa, AI's mid-rangescanner, and AI 5200 S Envision, its premium color-flow Doppleroffering.

Acuson

  • The Mountain View, CA, company displayed as a work-in-progressa new near-field adaptor for its L7 small parts probe. The deviceattaches to the transducer and is useful for imaging burn patients,breast disease and structures near the skin's surface.

  • Acuson showed two Aegis image review stations networked toa 128XP/10 scanner to demonstrate the operation of a local areanetwork.

  • The company also featured images showing its work in ultrasound-guidedcryosurgery using the L7T dedicated intraoperative probe.

Agfa

  • The company's Impax 3000 image management system figuredprominently in Agfa's display. The company has enjoyed extraordinarysales success with the system in recent months (SCAN 3/29/95).Agfa officials emphasized the scalability of Impax.

  • Agfa, of Ridgefield Park, CT, also showed its new DryStar chemical-freethermal sublimation printer, introduced at last year's RadiologicalSociety of North America meeting.

ATL

  • Taking the spotlight in ATL's booth was the HDI 3000 scanner,introduced last year (SCAN 10/26/94). The Bothell, WA, companyemphasized its CL10-5 compact linear transducer for vascular surgeryand musculoskeletal applications.

  • The company split its Access 100 workstation product line andrenamed the new systems Access DX and Access PM. Access DX isa high-end workstation designed to play cine loops, while AccessPM will cost about $8000 less and is intended for print managementwithout the cine loop function.

  • ATL plans to begin production shipments of the networked versionsof Access this month or next, the company said. ATL is currentlyshipping Access systems using disk-based image transfer.

ALI Technologies

  • This Vancouver, British Columbia, firm debuted UltraPACSProdigy, a new version of its UltraPACS ultrasound image managementsystem designed for small ultrasound departments (SCAN 3/29/95).

Aloka

  • The Wallingford, CT, company featured SSD-2000, the high-performanceradiology platform that gained regulatory clearance before lastyear's RSNA show. Full-blown marketing of SSD-2000 to radiologistsstarted in February, according to Jim Pietropaolo, vice presidentof sales and marketing. An ob/gyn configuration will be launchedby Aloka sales partner Corometrics at the American College ofObstetricians and Gynecologists meeting in May.

Biosound

  • Biosound used the AIUM show as the springboard for the U.S.introduction of AU-4, a new vascular ultrasound imaging systemdesigned and manufactured by its parent company, Esaote Biomedicaof Italy. The company also gave AIUM members their first lookat AU-3, a cardiovascular scanner first shown in March at theAmerican College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans. It is alsoan Esaote design built in Italy. Both systems await 510(k) clearance.

  • AU-4 powers Biosound's re-entry into vascular ultrasound, amarket the Indianapolis-based firm pioneered in the early 1980s.

Camtronics Medical Systems

  • Camtronics debuted NT 100, an image acquisition and transferunit. The device transports with a scanner and can convert theunit's video signal into digital format for transmission on anetwork, according to Michael Hall, sales and marketing managerof the Hartland, WI, company's connectivity division.

NT 100 includes a magneto-optical disk drive for storing portablestudies. Portable users can also save images to the system's internalmemory and then transfer those images to a network later. Camtronicsis developing a DICOM 3.0 compatibility for the system.

NT 100 received FDA clearance in February, and Camtronics plansto market the system through OEMs.

Cone Instruments

  • Cone again displayed its Combison 530 as a work-in-progress.The system is a 3-D ultrasound scanner developed by Kretztechnikof Austria. Its 3-D capabilities and its intuitive method of displaying3-D information were demonstrated using images acquired on thefloor with an egg-shaped phantom. FDA clearance is expected soon,according to Jay C. Cone, chief executive.

Diasonics Ultrasound

  • Diasonics unveiled Masters Gateway Series, its newest upgradeplatform for the VST Masters Series scanner (SCAN 3/29/95).

  • The company also emphasized its work-in-progress 2-D transducerarray technology, which improves contrast and spatial resolution,according to the vendor.

  • Diasonics moved into mid-range ultrasound with Compact, a platformoriginally developed by Ausonics as Opus 2.

  • Diasonics has moved its corporate headquarters to Santa Clara,CA, not far from the company's previous Milpitas location. Diasonics'new address is 2860 De La Cruz Blvd., Santa Clara, CA 95050. Thefirm's new phone number is 408/496-4700.

Eastman Kodak

  • Kodak showed ATL's Access in its booth as a stand-aloneimage management workstation. Kodak began merging the system withits Imagelink PACS product through an agreement with ATL lastyear (SCAN 2/1/95).

Kodak, of Rochester, NY, is working on its implementation ofDICOM 3.0 print and storage service classes that will allow Accessto be networked directly to Imagelink, according to Linda Roach,general manager of ultrasound and nuclear medicine systems. Kodakplans to be able to integrate Access with its Printer InterfaceUnit next month and its Image Acquisition Unit in September.

  • The company debuted Kodak Ektascan Medical Color Imager Model2000, a work-in-progress dye sublimation printer adapted for medicalapplications from Kodak's photographic business. The 8 x 10 imagerproduces a color print in 80 seconds at about $2 a print, bothfaster and cheaper than Kodak's previous offering. Kodak is applyingfor 510(k) clearance for the system, which will be priced around$12,000.

Fuji Medical Systems

  • Fuji featured the disk-based Remote Acquisition System (RAS)with its new Quick Review Station, provided to Fuji on a nonexclusivebasis by OEM supplier QuickSilver Systems.

  • Beta installations of Quick Review Station are scheduled forthe middle of this month. Catherine McCauley Health Center inAnn Arbor, MI, and Hospital of Saint Raphael in New Haven, CT,are the first hospitals to receive the new workstations.

Fukuda Denshi America

  • While known mainly for its Holter monitor products, Fukudaof Redmond, WA, also builds five types of ultrasound systems forexport. The ultra-light FFsonic UF-4500 was featured at the AIUMshow. The 22-lb gray-scale scanner is equipped for general abdominal,cardiac, ob/gyn and small parts imaging.

GE Medical Systems

  • GE of Milwaukee began production shipments of its premiumLogiq 700 scanner late last year, according to Jeff Peiffer, ultrasoundmarketing manager. Logiq 500 started shipping in March of 1993and its sales have exceeded the company's targets, Peiffer said.

  • GE has developed a cardiac package for the Logiq scanners consistingof a 3-MHz phased-array probe, EKG modules and a calculation softwarepackage. GE plans to ship the package as an optional upgrade inthe second quarter.

  • GE is also developing a PC-based workstation for off-line analysisand management of ultrasound and nuclear medicine images. Theworkstation, shown as a work-in-progress, can run independentlyor be integrated into GE's Advantage Windows multimodality clusteringconcept or PACS products from other vendors via a DICOM 3.0 interface.The workstation is designed to be a low-cost alternative to moreexpensive workstations and will list at around $10,000.

Hewlett-Packard

  • HP repeated themes that drove its exhibit at the ACC meetingearlier in the month. The company introduced Color Kinesis, whichenhances the firm's approach to cardiac border-detection by depictingchanges in heart-wall motion as colored bands displayed on theSonos 2500 scanner. The colors differentiate normal and abnormalwall motion for measurements gathered over time.

  • Also featured was Intelligent Acoustic Quantification, thelatest version of HP's automated cardiac performance measurementpackage. IAQ cuts procedure time, improves region-of-interestmonitoring and includes beat-to-beat averaging, according to theAndover, MA, manufacturer.

Hitachi Medical Systems

  • Hitachi displayed EUB-420, a multipurpose gray-scale scannerintroduced last year and targeted at the office market. The vendoralso displayed EUB-405 Plus, a portable system; EUB-555, a multipurposecolor Doppler scanner; and EUB-515 Plus, the company's first colorsystem.

International Imaging Electronics

  • Company officials were optimistic about snagging the firstinstallation outside North America for the FullView multimodalityphysician workstation and image management system (SCAN 4/6/94).FullView was operating at three Canadian health-care facilitiesin November 1994.

Konica

  • Konica added Image Capture System to its product line. Thedevice acquires ultrasound images to portable media for printingor transmission on a network (SCAN 3/29/95).

Mallinckrodt Medical

  • Mallinckrodt featured Albunex, which made its AIUM debutas a commercial product after receiving FDA approval last year(SCAN 8/31/94). St. Louis-based Mallinckrodt markets the agentin the U.S. for Molecular Biosystems of San Diego.

Medison America

  • Medison of Pleasanton, CA, introduced Sonoace 5000, a gray-scaleob/gyn scanner (SCAN 3/29/95).

Perception Ultrasound

  • The newest member of the U.S. ultrasound manufacturing fraternityintroduced GPS 5000, a general-purpose scanner. It is a cart-basedsystem that supports electronic probes ranging in frequency from2.5 to 7.5 MHz for general applications. The work-in-progressscanner also operates specialty probes for laparoscopic and endocavitalapplications.

Like Perception's other products, GPS 5000 is a PC-based scannerdesigned around a modular approach to system configuration, accordingto Martin E. Doyle, chief executive (SCAN 2/1/95). The companyplans to be shipping scanners capable of mechanical, linear andcolor Doppler imaging before year's end.

Philips Ultrasound

  • Philips highlighted its new SD 800 platform developed inpartnership with Hewlett-Packard (SCAN 12/14/94). Philips emphasizedthe versatility of the system, which is appropriate for both echocardiographyand general radiology applications. An echo software calculationpackage is available as an option.

  • The Shelton, CT, vendor also emphasized its ongoing work onColor Velocity Imaging-Quantification (SCAN 3/29/94).

Polaroid Medical Imaging Systems

  • Polaroid of Newton, MA, gave the ultrasound market a lookat its new Helios 1417 laser printer, which brings the vendor'sdry-processing technology to the 14 x 17 format (SCAN 11/9/94).

QuickSilver Systems

  • This emerging company unveiled the Quick Read 2000 ManagementStation, a multimodality review station that is designed to beQuickSilver's entry point into RIS/PACS markets.

Simplicity, speed and value are marketing points the San Jose,CA, company intends to exploit after QR 2000 gains FDA clearance.It gains access to digital images from frame grabbers made byvarious manufacturers or through DEFF-format or DICOM-compatiblemagneto-optical disks.

QR 2000 operates on Microsoft's Windows NT operating system.The Pentium-based, 32-bit software provides a seamless interfacefrom the operating software to the system query language (SQL)server and the relational database package.

QR 2000 has been adopted by Fuji for use in its Remote AcquisitionSystem. It was also displayed at the AIUM booths of Scitex andCamtronics.

Radiology Telenetwork International (RTI)

  • Toronto-based RTI reported considerable progress in developingthe low-cost telemedicine/information management system debutedat the 1994 RSNA show (SCAN 2/1/95).

The company unveiled a commercially available image and datamanagement component that complements the system's teleconferencingcapabilities. The Digital Film Jacket uses off-the-shelf technologiesto mimic the functions of the kind of analog film jacket radiologistsencounter every day, according to Dr. Roger Stronell, chief executive.

RTI showed a real-time videoconferencing broadcast at 30 framesper second with lossless compression. Real-time demonstrationswere demonstrated between Stronell at RTI's booth in San Franciscoand a technologist performing ultrasound procedures at an imagingcenter near Toronto.

Scitex Medical Systems

  • The Bedford, MA, vendor showed its plain-paper printingtechnology, which debuted at the 1993 RSNA meeting (SCAN 1/19/94).

  • Like several other vendors, Scitex showed QuickSilver Systems'ultrasound image review station. Scitex does not have a formalOEM agreement with QuickSilver but is investigating demand forthe product, according to David Noshay, sales manager.

Shimadzu Medical Systems

  • The SDU 400-Plus was Shimadzu's featured product. This enhancementto the SDU 400 was introduced to the U.S. market in the thirdquarter of 1994. A new operating system allows the user to controlall applications software by manipulating the track ball and twokeys.

  • Shimadzu also showed a new True Vision biplane transrectalprobe. It allows the operator to have true transverse and sagittalviews, according to Edith Stone, product manager.

Siemens Ultrasound

  • The Sonoline Versa won top billing at the Siemens booth.Priced under $100,000, the new color-flow system fills a mid-tierniche complementing Siemens' high-end Q2000 (SCAN 11/23/94).

Sonus Pharmaceuticals

  • Contrast developer Sonus of Bothell, WA, highlighted severalpresentations at the meeting on its phase-shift colloid technology,including its EchoGen agent (SCAN 2/15/95).

3M Medical Imaging Systems

  • 3M displayed its work in sending ultrasound images overa DICOM 3.0-compatible network to integrate ultrasound into itsImage Management System(SCAN 3/29/95).

  • The Minneapolis company also showed its new DryView line ofchemical-free laser printers.

Toshiba America Medical Systems

  • The company reprised themes introduced at last year's RSNAmeeting. The Tustin, CA, firm's product line has been retooledto fit specific diagnostic applications covering a range of pricepoints. A new cardiac application package introduction contributedto a doubling of customer leads generated at the ACC show, accordingto the company. Toshiba's low-cost Eccocee scanner still awaits510(k) action.

Visiplex Instruments

  • Headline products included the Imlogix display station andthe FilmFax teleradiology system. Both products were acquiredwhen Visiplex bought the assets of Genesys, an Orlando, FL, PACScompany, in 1994 (SCAN 8/10/94).