Ultrasound vendors bring modest introductions to RSNA

January 12, 2000

As was the case at the 1998 RSNA meeting, ultrasound firms largely showed evolutionary technology advancements on the exhibit floor. Several companies did take the opportunity to launch new scanners, however. Toshiba America Medical Systems introduced

As was the case at the 1998 RSNA meeting, ultrasound firms largely showed evolutionary technology advancements on the exhibit floor. Several companies did take the opportunity to launch new scanners, however. Toshiba America Medical Systems introduced its new super-premium scanner PowerVision 8000, the show’s only new entrant at that price point. Esaote, Hitachi, Shimadzu, and Siemens also presented new systems. Developments at the lower end of ultrasound technology were on display, with SonoSite and RSNA newcomer Terason highlighting their handheld devices.

Acuson

  • Acuson put the spotlight on its Digital Dynamic Review concept, which brings together the dynamic imaging capabilities of its Sequoia and Aspen ultrasound scanners with its KinetDx ultrasound miniPACS offering to increase diagnostic confidence and productivity, according to the Mountain View, CA-based vendor. Digital Dynamic Review expands the use of dynamic clips captured on Sequoia and Aspen by allowing review with a single button push in a quad screen format, anytime during or after an exam. Dynamic clips can also be displayed in a wide field-of-view format when using Freestyle, a panoramic visualization package unveiled during the 1998 RSNA meeting. Dynamic clips can also be processed into 3-D surface and volumetric renderings, which is suitable for applications such as organ or fetal assessments.
  • Acuson also debuted two new transducers. The 4C1, a general-purpose probe for Aspen and Sequoia, is designed to provide deep penetration during abdominal and obstetrical cases, and is targeted for the technically difficult patient. The transducer delivers frequencies between 1.5 and 4 MHz. The 6C2 curved array, designed for Sequoia, combines high resolution with wide field-of-view. The 6C2 is based on a patented imaging format called Curved Vector wide-view array imaging. Both transducers are optimized for use with Accuson’s Native Tissue Harmonic Imaging technique.
  • Acuson announced the renewal of a key customer agreement with Kaiser Permanente. As part of the agreement, Kaiser will purchase Sequoia and Aspen platforms in a deal valued at about $9 million each year for the next two years. The agreement includes two optional one-year extensions.

Agilent Technologies

  • In the wake of the corporate reorganization that created Agilent Technologies from Hewlett-Packard, the company focused attention on mainstream offerings. Highlighted was HP ImagePoint Hx, a shared services system featuring harmonic imaging, stress echo option, and triplex imaging, which tracks tissue movement and blood flow simultaneously in 2-D, color flow, and Doppler.
  • Agilent also showed the latest revision of its Sonos 4500 system, which includes several new features, such as harmonic and tissue harmonic imaging, and an interoperative transducer.
  • Two new transducers were shown, the HP Ultraband S4 sector transducer and HP Ultraband c3540 curved linear transducer.

Aloka

  • Signaling Aloka’s interest in the upper stratum of ultrasound was the North American unveiling of the SSD-5500 PureHD (pure harmonic detection), an advanced scanner incorporating a digital beam former based on hemispheric sound technology and a multiprocessor capable of generating 400 frames per second. Unveiled in late August 1999 at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology, SSD-5500 PureHD offers harmonic imaging and an echocardiography option that allows measurements including automatic segmental motion analysis, tissue Doppler image measurements, and real-time free angular M-mode.

ATL Ultrasound

  • ATL put the spotlight on new features in its Performance 2000 upgrade, including its SonoCT and Real-time Perfusion Imaging technology (SCAN 9/29/99 and 11/24/99).
  • Performance 2000 for the firm’s flagship HDI 5000 scanner also features ATL’s third generation tissue harmonic imaging, improvements in Broadband Flow Imaging, Color Power Angio Imaging, and DICOM connectivity.
  • A version of the Performance 2000 upgrade was released for HDI 1500, the company’s mid-range shared services system built by Korean-based Medison. With this upgrade, HDI 1500 can perform tissue harmonic and trapezoidal imaging as a means for expanding field-of-view. Other enhancements include improvements in abdominal, color Doppler, and gray-scale imaging, as well as expanded analysis features of obstetrical and cardiac applications. Using the upgrade, patient demographics can be imported from a DICOM modality work list server and transferred to a PACS.

Esaote

  • Esaote introduced Technos, a general-purpose unit. The system, which has received Food and Drug Administration clearance, is built around a digital beamformer. Capabilities include M-mode, Doppler, CFM, and power Doppler. Advanced processing, including 3-D imaging, was featured as a work-in-progress. Wideband multi-frequency transducers cover a frequency range from 2.5 to 13 MHz. Keyboard and monitor are adjustable in height and angle so as to maximize user comfort. Technos uses the Windows NT operating system.

GE Medical Systems

  • Seeking a broader appeal, GE widened its product line with versions of its three mainstay products, Logiq 700, 500, and 200, designed for cost- and space-constrained customers. The “Pro” series is comprised of compact, digital systems that include capabilities reflecting a balance between clinical performance and price. Among the scanning features are calculations packages, onboard image archiving, and patient-management tools.
  • Logiq 700 Expert, which first appeared in spring 1999, was the focal point for GE ultrasound offerings. Enhanced visualization, particularly of blood flow and blood vessel walls, was cited as the basis for the system’s ability to assist in identifying risk factors contributing to stroke.
  • In work-in-progress technology, GE showcased LogicView – Extended Field of View for the 700. The technology provides extended field-of-view for B-mode and color-flow imaging. The Waukesha, WI-based vendor also discussed upcoming developments with contrast imaging and new transducers.
  • GE announced a $1.4 million agreement with Massachusetts General Hospital covering the supply of up to 14 ultrasound systems and comprehensive support and services, including staff training and education. As of the meeting, nine ultrasound systems had been installed.

Hitachi Medical Corp. of America

  • Hitachi debuted Hitachi 6000, an ultrasound scanner equipped with 256-channel quad processing, 150 dB dynamic range, and wideband focusing. The scanner includes such technologies as tissue harmonic imaging, directional CFA, and artifact suppression algorithms (SCAN 12/15/99). The Windows NT-based unit can be used in a variety of applications, including radiology, ob/gyn, urology, and cardiology, and carries optional digital image management features for image capture, storage, and retrieval. Hitachi hopes to begin shipments in January or February, pending FDA 510(k) clearance. The Tarrytown, NY-based firm declined to provide pricing information on the work-in-progress scanner.

Medison

  • A new breast probe for 3-D imaging works in concert with the company’s 3-D system Voluson 530D. The probe generates data that can depict the 3-D shapes of lesions, tumors, and other abnormalities. Recognition of these shapes, according to the company, promises to enhance the accuracy of diagnoses of breast, thyroid, and testicular diseases. Other applications may be found for the probe in surgical guidance and needle placement during biopsies and cyst aspirations.
  • Harmonic imaging was added to Voluson 530D. The capability is expected to improve image quality on overweight, elderly, and other problematic patients.

Shimadzu Medical Systems

  • Shimadzu expanded its product line with the introductions of SDU-2200, a general-purpose ultrasound scanner, and SDU-1200, a special purpose scanner (SCAN 12/15/99). SDU-1200 is targeted for radiology/abdominal, vascular, ob/gyn, urology, and breast imaging applications. The work-in-progress scanners are the first color systems Shimadzu will bring to the U.S. marketplace. SDU-2200 includes a 64-channel, quad-receive digital beamformer, while SDU-1200 employs a 48-channel, dual-receive digital beamformer. Both systems are equipped with color and power Doppler capability.

Siemens Medical Systems

  • Siemens Medical Systems’ Ultrasound Group filled in a gap in its Sonoline ultrasound family with the 1999 RSNA meeting introduction of Omnia, a high-end multispecialty imaging system (SCAN 12/15/99). Omnia, which includes several advanced technology features found on its flagship Elegra scanner, will have a price range of $90,000 to $140,000. The Issaquah, WA-based firm previously did not offer a system at that price point. Features available on Omnia include black and white SieScape panoramic imaging, available on all transducers. Also included is Ensemble Tissue Harmonic Imaging, designed to enhance gray-scale contrast resolution, especially in difficult-to-scan patients, according to the company.
  • The Germany-based company updated the 3-Scape Real-Time 3-D Imaging technology on its flagship Sonoline Elegra with a set of tools that use 3-D boundaries to estimate and calculate measurements of internal structures. Complementing these tools is an algorithm that instantly recognizes the boundaries of common structures and anatomy, pixel by pixel. With one keystroke, operators can command this algorithm to display a surface view of a fetus, organ, or lesion.
  • Photopic Ultrasound capitalizes on the way people perceive variations in color and gray scale, helping operators appreciate minor changes in tissue. In this way, Photopic Ultrasound helps in the discrimination of subtle differences in low-contrast areas. Clinical data highlighted in the Siemens booth indicate that the new technology makes lesions and vascular obstructions more conspicuous. Photopic Ultrasound relies on an image-enhancement algorithm to translate gray scale into a color-enriched image optimized for interpretation in bright-light (photopic) conditions.

SonoSite

  • The ATL spin-off focused attention on its SonoSite 180 system, a hand-carried, all-digital scanner. The 5.4-pound system, first unveiled at the annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians in October 1999, is being groomed for use primarily in emergency medicine, gynecology, obstetrics, and abdominal imaging, and general imaging. SonoHeart, a version of the system dedicated to echocardiography, was displayed at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in early November.
  • A cart featuring a cradle into which the SonoSite could be docked was demonstrated at the booth. Once in position, the dock supports download, network transmission, or printing of images. A power connector built into the cart recharges the battery and a locking mechanism in the cradle is designed to prevent theft.

Terason

  • A handheld device, the Terason 2000 is designed to work with existing PC platforms, including desktop, notebook, palmtop, and even wearable computers. High-speed FireWire connectivity links the ultrasound transducer to the PC. Charge-domain processing technology combines high-speed, low-power sampled, data charge-domain components with CMOS digital control and memory circuits. The result is a new type of microelectronics, according to the company, a chip capable of high-speed computation that requires minimal power. Terason 2000, which received FDA clearance in November 1999, supports linear, curved, and phased-array technologies in a range of 2 to 10 MHz.

Toshiba America Medical Systems

  • PowerVision 8000 took over as Toshiba’s flagship ultrasound product (SCAN 2/15/99). The super-premium scanner, which can be configured for cardiology or radiology, offers 512 channels and plug-and-play transducer technology. Built into PowerVision 8000 is an integrated, digital information management system, called PowerView, that supports various advanced imaging capabilities and DICOM services. Included are 3-D, stress echo, and quantitative analysis, as well as telemedicine features such as live digital video and streaming audio. PowerView provides a seamless connection with both PACS and HIS/RIS networks, according to the Tustin, CA-based firm.
  • Fusion 3-D and Integrated 3-D applications were highlighted among the new system’s capabilities. Fusion 3-D reconstructs data alternatively as volumes, surface renderings, or slices. Integrated 3-D supports the manipulation of volumes to improve measurement and interventional guidance.
  • A dozen types of transducers built for the new flagship system each have a “chip-in-the-tip,” an integrated circuit that captures and amplifies raw echo signals. This circuit minimizes information loss that might occur while the data move through the cabling between transducer and system.
  • Quad Signal Processing (QSP), which enhances frame rate and color imaging, is intended for technically difficult patients and for capturing fast-moving structures. QSP achieves this by acquiring four times the data from each signal.
  • The firm’s Real-Time True Triplex Imaging technique allows for the simultaneous display of three modes. Among the choices are B-mode, spectral Doppler, color Doppler, color angio, or directional color angio. Triplex Imaging delivers these data at about 15 frames per second.
  • A contrast imaging package allows the comparison of images at different times in the flow of contrast. The package, which incorporates Flash Echo Imaging and color harmonic imaging, may be useful in quantifying blood flow and perfusion.