Vendors promise major CT and MR introductions at RSNA meeting

November 26, 2003

Philips plans to unveil new CT familyCT and MR muddled along for much of this year after a lackluster showing at the 2002 RSNA meeting. Iterative enhancements to coils, gradients, and software in MR and smart user interfaces and 3D

Philips plans to unveil new CT family

CT and MR muddled along for much of this year after a lackluster showing at the 2002 RSNA meeting. Iterative enhancements to coils, gradients, and software in MR and smart user interfaces and 3D reconstruction software in CT were the highlights. This year's RSNA exhibit floor promises to be more exciting.

CT will start the exhibit with a bang, thanks to the launch of the Brilliance family of scanners from Philips Medical Systems (North Hall 7149). Some members of this family will enter production next month, although the premium model will not be manufactured until the fourth quarter of 2004. This flagship product will be substantially faster than the current 16-slice Mx8000 IDT system, generating more slices and providing greater coverage. It will be offered at gantry speeds of 0.5 and 0.42 second per rotation.

Siemens Medical Solutions (South Hall 1729) is taking a different approach to speed. At the American Heart Association meeting, the company unveiled its new Speed4D CT scanner, sporting x-ray tube technology that allows 0.37-second gantry rotation, faster tube cooling, optimized data reconstruction algorithms, and automated x-ray dose calculations. Systems equipped with Speed4D will begin shipping early next year.

Toshiba America (South Hall 1551) directed attention to gantry rotation at last year's meeting, raising the bar to 0.4-second rotation with its flagship Aquilion. This year, the company will focus on using faster rotation to achieve clinical advantages. Toshiba will introduce a new suite of scan applications that automate complex CT imaging studies. Software products called SureWorkflow, SureScan, SureStart, and SureSupport will incorporate imaging techniques designed to maximize clinical functionality and accuracy.

GE Medical Systems (South Hall 4100) will highlight the LightSpeed Pro16, which offers 0.4-second gantry rotation speed to support cardiovascular, neuro, pediatric, and lung studies. It will also feature Xtream, a reconstruction and data storage platform.

Major CT advances should help reverse the trend in softening scanner prices, according to executives at Philips and Siemens. Increased competition, a lull in technology development, and diminishing demand have conspired to drop the street price of premium CTs below $1 million this year. But that will soon change, said Jim Green, vice president of CT for Philips Medical.

"This system, when introduced, will have no competition, so we expect it will drive a pretty good price," he said, referring to Philips' premium scanner.

The Brilliance family will initially be available at 6, 10, and 16 slices. Each member will be upgradeable to versions capable of more than 16 slices per rotation, Green said.

Vendors of MR scanners have been preparing for a technological leap from 1.5T to 3T, but the transition to 3T as the high-field benchmark has been slowed by uncertainty over when and how to use these scanners. Industry execs who had been predicting the imminent ascension of high-field imaging to this new level are now changing their predictions to two years or more. Philips and Siemens will fill the time by refining technologies that make 3T more practical: coils, software, and techniques that will be shown at this year's RSNA meeting. The delay may also give Toshiba America time to win high-field converts to its new 1.5T scanner, which will be highlighted on the RSNA exhibit floor.

Despite its success at midfield with the 0.35T Opart superconducting scanner, Toshiba has struggled at high field. That could change with the introduction this year of the 1.5T Excelart Vantage. The system, shown without the table at the company's RSNA booth last year, will make the leap from concept to product.

Toshiba enlisted U.K. vendor Oxford Magnet Technology to supply Vantage's ultrashort-bore magnet, essentially the same magnet previously built into the Infinion MR scanner marketed by Marconi and then Philips. Toshiba has bound the magnet in cowling tighter than that of the Marconi/Philips scanner, creating the shortest-ever MR scanner bore. It has also integrated Pianissimo, proprietary high-field technology with noise muffling, which was developed for use on Toshiba's previously marketed 1.5T system.

Vantage offers linear 30 mT/m gradients with a slew rate of 50 or 130 T/m/sec. It delivers a homogeneous field over the complete 50-cm-diameter spherical volume of the bore.

Vendors usually have more to show than they are willing to reveal before the RSNA exhibit opens. Sources say that both Siemens and Philips will have major unveilings in MR, but neither company would share the details prior to the deadline for this issue. Siemens may let one cat out of the bag a few days before the meeting with an announcement reportedly planned for Nov. 25, but other surprises are likely to be waiting at its booth.

GE Medical Systems may have a surprise or two in store as well. Its pre-RSNA announcements emphasize x-ray and MR fusion software and its Excite computing platform. The Excite data pipeline will be featured as the vehicle for conducting advanced clinical protocols in vascular, breast, and stroke imaging.

Executives at Philips and Siemens agree that faster CT scanning and reconstruction times will directly affect trauma and cardiac applications. Whole-body scanning with Siemens' Speed4D increases the volume coverage and reduces breath-hold time while improving temporal resolution, according to Bernd Ohnesorge, Ph.D., vice president of worldwide marketing for Siemens' CT division (SCAN 10/29/03). The system can cover the entire chest at highest resolution in as little as six seconds.

Philips' new premium Brilliance scanner will do even better, Green said, with coverage enough to capture most if not all of an organ in several seconds and speed fast enough to freeze the heart in a "near perfect image," turning CT coronary angiography into a routine procedure.

"With this, CT could become the modality of choice for stroke assessment and the means for telling very quickly what the course of treatment should be for someone who shows up at the ER with chest pain," Green said.