Vendors showcase global offerings for ECR audience

June 16, 2005

Europeans at the ECR scrutinized new product offerings, some of which were shown publicly for the first time. Others had been introduced at the RSNA meeting three months earlier but had been packaged to appeal to U.S. buyers.

Europeans at the ECR scrutinized new product offerings, some of which were shown publicly for the first time. Others had been introduced at the RSNA meeting three months earlier but had been packaged to appeal to U.S. buyers.

MR dominated the ECR with high-field introductions. Philips Medical Systems delivered its long-awaited Panorama 1.0T open scanner. The over-and-under superconducting magnets are contoured to provide an airy feeling, and the vertical field is harnessed by coils that are more efficient than those of open systems and even some cylindrical scanners, according to Jacques Coumans, Philips vice president of global marketing.

Because the Panorama 1.0T offers high-field image quality in a patient-friendly environment, it may provide the first acceptable choice for many Europeans considering open MR, he said.

"In Europe, physicians' trust and confidence have been lacking in low-field open MR technology," Coumans said. "With the Panorama 1.0T, we are seeing an increase in contrast and in signal-to-noise ratio."

GE Healthcare promoted its High-Definition MR, a highly evolved form of its Excite data pipeline. HDMR integrates a new generation of software, electronics, and surface coils to support studies that would otherwise be too time-consuming and computing-intensive to be practical. It promises to have an immediate impact on dynamic imaging of blood flow, as well as applications prone to motion artifact, such as imaging the heart, abdomen, pediatric brain, and patients with Parkinson's disease.

Siemens wedged its Espree between these two offerings. An ultracompact 1.5T scanner with one foot in the open category and the other in cylindrical, Espree features a closed or cylindrical magnet. Yet it is roomier for patients than a conventional open MR scanner, as the doughnut-shaped superconducting magnet has a 70-cm inner bore diameter and a 125-cm bore length.

HDMR, Panorama 1.0T, and Espree had received their share of recognition at the RSNA meeting, where the showiest garner the most attention. The same held true for CT, as 64-slice scanners had captured the spotlight for the better part of two years.

Siemens directed attention at the ECR to its rapidly expanding installed base of Sensation 64 scanners, which had passed the 100 mark by early 2004. Philips described plans to upgrade its installed base of 40-slice Brilliance CTs to 64 by inserting new detectors. Toshiba promised to upgrade its Aquilion 32 scanners to 64 slices without changing detectors. And GE sought to capture interest in its multislice CT scanner by focusing on its Volara VFX digital data acquisition system.

With the Goliaths of imaging having set off most of their fireworks at the RSNA meeting, several offerings in the less glamorous modalities glided into Vienna under the radar. The ECR hosted the first general unveiling of Philips' latest high-performance ultrasound system, the HD (high definition) 11. The company launched the system commercially in February as a state-of-the-art alternative for budget-strapped healthcare facilities.

HD11 is designed as a shared-services or multispecialty system, addressing radiology, vascular, ob/gyn, and cardiac applications. It can be configured to handle all four, just one, or a combination of several applications.

The vendor is releasing the new product globally, but up to 40% of the units will likely be sold in Europe, said David L. McCarty, market manager, Philips' global general imaging for ultrasound.

"We did extensive customer interviews from around the world, but we got a lot of input from European customers," he said. "Europe has a sizable high-performance market."

Agfa added a European twist to IT, explaining its strategy for corporate and technological development. The company plans to build on its recent acquisition of GWI, which specialized in administrative and clinical IT solutions. GWI's Orbis products, used at more than 2000 medical sites in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France, integrate general administration, workflow, and documentation systems.

Agfa will offer both Orbis products in the short term. Future development will combine Orbis with the Impax RIS/PACS to create a holistic enterprise-wide system that integrates all clinical and administrative data.

"The challenge and the opportunity for us lie in how we can improve value for our current radiology customers by providing a much more integrated suite of applications. We must make sure Agfa's Impax suite can be seamlessly integrated into a much broader enterprise application suite," said Philippe Houssiau, president of the Agfa HealthCare Business Group.

In the x-ray arena at the ECR, Siemens Medical Solutions introduced a lightweight, mobile C-arm designed as an adjunct for cardiac and abdominal interventions. The Arcadis Avantic features a 20-kW generator with a continuous digital 1K x 1K image chain and a 13-inch image intensifier. The imaging chain can deliver 30 frames per second.

"It might even be used as a backup for a big angio system. Even if you don't have the same image quality, it would be there for an urgent case," said Seyfi Ceyhan, Siemens product manager for surgery.

Although it might be applied outside the OR, the system is optimized for applications in cardiovascular surgery and electrophysiology, as well as radiological interventions in gastroenterology.

It is the third and most recent addition to Siemens' Arcadis family of lightweight, compact, and highly mobile C-arms. Arcadis Orbic with its 3D configuration, introduced several months earlier at the RSNA meeting, is intended for intraoperative use in orthopedics and trauma surgery. Arcadis Varic, unveiled at the 2004 ECR, is designed for general surgical support. Like the latest family member, Avantic, these systems are equipped with Siemens' syngo capability, which supports viewing of multimodality images.

"With this, if you have a patient in the OR, you can get all the views from CT and MR," Ceyhan said.

Avantic is scheduled to enter production in August. The company has not yet received regulatory clearance in Europe or the U.S.

Philips introduced the Practix Convenio, a motorized radiography system featuring battery technology that provides all-day scanning without recharging. The advanced battery design frees the operator from the power cord that can encumber a mobile radiography system, especially in tight quarters.

"In the ICU or trauma unit, where you have equipment and cables all around the patient, it is necessary to disturb the patient as little as possible. You don't want to be looking for a power socket," said Annette Eckhardt, Ph.D., international senior product manager for Philips conventional radiography.

The presentation at the ECR of Practix Convenio marked the official start of its marketing. Philips will begin installing units at selected customer sites over the next few months, with full production to begin in late summer.

The film-based system doubles as a platform for Philips CR. Multiple-sized CR cassettes provide greater flexibility than a one-size digital detector in matching the body part to the image, Eckhardt said. Unlike digital detectors, CR plates do not require cabling to the unit, and they present less risk of costly mistakes.

Mr. Freiherr is business editor of Diagnostic Imaging.