Ultrasound trudges forward

February 6, 2006

It has been ages since ultrasound was the darling of medical imaging, when Acuson handed out light sticks to celebrate its introduction of color flow, ATL christened computed sonography, and Diasonics raised the curtain on “Angio” imaging. Those were the Wild West days of ultrasound, when one company’s success was soon topped by another’s. Things have changed. The ultrasound industry today is far more civilized.

It has been ages since ultrasound was the darling of medical imaging, when Acuson handed out light sticks to celebrate its introduction of color flow, ATL christened computed sonography, and Diasonics raised the curtain on "Angio" imaging. Those were the Wild West days of ultrasound, when one company's success was soon topped by another's. Things have changed. The ultrasound industry today is far more civilized.

At the RSNA meeting this year, vendors strummed familiar chords of premium systems representing the latest iterations, upgrades, and enhancements designed to help established systems keep pace. Among the noteworthy products: Aloka's ProSound Alpha 10; Biosound Esaote's MyLab 70, the debut system of its new MyLab Gold Platform; Hitachi's Sono Elastography; and Toshiba's enhanced version of Differential Tissue Harmonic Imaging.

ProSound Alpha 10, described as the flagship of Aloka's ultrasound product line, features improved spatial and contrast resolution, near- and deep-field image uniformity, and expanded connectivity and data analysis. Advanced options, including Real Time 4D and eFlow, offer advantages in perinatology/maternal and fetal medicine, appealing to specialists in these areas as well as those in large ob/gyn offices, high-end surgical practices, and breast imaging and general imaging departments. A standard feature and key component is a compound pulsed-wave generator that produces a transmission signal to match clinical applications, enables precise focus control of high-resolution ultrasound beams, and reduces unwanted artifacts.

The advanced eFlow feature is Aloka's new technology for high-resolution sensitive detection of blood perfusion. Its enhanced spatial and temporal resolution provides detailed visualization and reduced overlapping of blood flow and tissue information. It is ideal for the evaluation of superficial blood flow, renal and deep renal blood flow, fetal blood flow, umbilical cord flow, and blood flow to tumors, according to the company.

With the advanced Real Time 4D, the Alpha 10 improves patient throughput via simplified 3D measurements, 360° vertical and horizontal rotation, and a 1/2/4-way split screen for simultaneous display of a 4D image and up to three additional views. The lightweight 4D abdominal transducer decreases procedure time, as users only need one transducer for 2D, M-mode, and color, power, and spectral Doppler imaging.

Compact, mobile, and ergonomically designed, ProSound Alpha 10 features a flexible platform. Its large adjustable-height operation panel swivels, enabling users to scan without stress. With its scalable architecture, the system can be easily upgraded to suit changing user needs and accommodate future enhancements as they become available.

Introducing the first system of its new MyLab Gold Platform, Esaote unveiled the MyLab 70, a general-purpose compact ultrasound system. MyLab 70 features tissue enhancement imaging and 3D/4D capability. It can handle phased, convex, and linear array as well as Doppler probes. It is equipped with a CRT color display and DVD-RW disk drive and can be linked to a PC via a LAN port.

MyLab 70 characteristics include impressive image quality in abdominal, small parts, vascular, cardiac, and surgery as well as advanced architecture, software-based updating, and rapid and easy interfacing. The digital architecture extends connectivity and data sharing, as it includes real-time archiving, immediate high-level PC connectivity, up-to-date peripheral configuration, and integrated wi-fi and Bluetooth connections.

Although not new to the RSNA exhibit floor, Hitachi's Sono Elastography merits mention. The technology, shown in 2004 and this year as part of the HI Vision 8500 ultrasound system, measures the relative stiffness of tissue, overlaying this information as a color map onto the standard B-mode image. This perspective offers new insights into the physical properties of tumors and masses, possibly unveiling lesions previously undetectable, according to the company.

Toshiba featured an enhanced version of its Differential Tissue Harmonic Imaging (DTHI) on high-performance Aplio. The second-generation DTHI technology improves image resolution and enables scanning of patients whose girth presents particular challenges to ultrasound techs.