by Cat Vasko

· Running the Numbers
· Sonora and MDT to Develop FirstAssist
· Tech Zoom: ZONARE Introduces ultra System
· Tech Zoom: ContextVision Launches GOPView USXi for Ultrasound
· Mindray Debuts Color Ultrasound System
· Big Deal: VIHA and GE Healthcare Enter 8-Year, $11 Million Partnership

Running the Numbers

In a recent study at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, 93 patients underwent both MRI and echocardiography of their heart after a stroke, and researchers determined that using both modalities enhanced the detection of the cause and selection of the best treatment of cardioembolic strokes. The study1 showed that MRI detected nearly twice as many potential causes of stroke originating from the heart compared to echocardiography. MRI also detected significant heart conditions that predispose a patient to stroke in 30% of patients. However, echocardiography was more sensitive to detecting potential embolic lesions on prosthetic cardiac valves and strokes related to a hole in the heart. “By using cardiac MRI and echocardiography to assess stroke patients, we have two sets of eyes: two ways to see what is causing the stroke to provide the best immediate care, and two ways to see what problems lie ahead for this patient that we could prevent with better long-term care,” said lead author John Sheehan, MD, an interventional radiologist at Northwestern University and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “The earlier we can detect underlying cardiac problems, the more quickly we can intervene to prevent future strokes. One stroke is more than enough. The chances of experiencing another stroke can be dramatically reduced by taking appropriate actions.”


  1. Sheehan JJ, Hitchell A, Bernstein RA, Dill K, Omary RA, Carr JC. Evaluation of patients with suspected cardioembolic stroke with cardiovascular MR: comparison with echocardiography. Abstract 132. Presented at: Annual Meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiologists; March 6, 2007; Seattle.

Sonora and MDT to Develop FirstAssist

Sonora Medical Systems, Longmont, Colo, a developer of aftermarket test equipment for the medical-imaging market, has partnered with Medical Diagnostic Technologies Inc (MDT), Las Vegas, a developer of CAD products, to create an ultrasound system test device. Called FirstAssist, the device will troubleshoot diagnostic ultrasound systems via automated image analysis.

“This new product will obviate the need for hospitals to rely on the ultrasound original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for after-warranty service contracts, thereby saving the hospitals tens of thousands of dollars annually,” said Sonora CEO G. Wayne Moore. “The combination of Sonora’s hardware design and the sophisticated image-processing algorithms developed by MDT will set a new standard in ultrasound quality control and will really empower hospital biomedical engineers to troubleshoot and effect repair on even the most technologically intense ultrasound system.”

The FirstAssist device will test all imaging and Doppler modalities of ultrasound systems and analyze signals displayed on the ultrasound monitor for various operational characteristics claimed by OEMs in their published systems specifications. US commercial release is expected this summer.

ZONARE Introduces ultra System

An ultrasound platform that can be converted from a full-featured, cart-based system into a compact unit was introduced by ZONARE Medical Systems, Mountain View, Calif, at the annual Society of Interventional Radiology conference, held on March 1-6 in Seattle.

The ultra, which incorporates Zone Sonography technology, was influenced by customer feedback. “The ultra system reflects months of input from customers, resulting in greater ergonomics, clinical applications, time savings, and ease-of-use-benefits for the clinicians,” said Donald Southard, president and CEO of ZONARE. “Most importantly, it is designed for easy upgradeability when new applications and additional advances are introduced. Whether as the full-featured, cart-based system or the premium compact unit, we believe the ultra offers the best value in ultrasound today.”

ZONARE’s ultra has an optional battery pack that can power the full-cart system for up to 2 hours.

Advanced software enhancements for the system can be downloaded from the Internet, including such features as Auto-Opt with ZST, which equalizes image gain and brightness while automatically adjusting the sound speed based on differences in a patient’s body habitus. Another capability is the Auto-Dop Trace, which automatically traces spectral Doppler waveform at the touch of a button.

Included with the ultra is a 19-inch monitor with 1,280 x 1,024 pixel resolution, and the monitor is mounted on an articulate arm for 90-degree wide-angle viewing.

ContextVision Launches GOPView USXi for Ultrasound

New from ContextVision AB, Stockholm, Sweden, is the GOPView USXi ultra-fast image enhancement platform for ultrasound. Using the GOPView algorithm, which has been leveraged into a successful line of tools for multiple modalities, the USXi offers rapid digital image enhancement and speckle reduction for demanding ultrasound applications.

With a sophisticated new software algorithm designed specifically for speckle reduction and real-time enhancement, the USXi helps manufacturers enhance their ultrasound offerings by allowing for extended parameter customization in order to fine-tune output for different usage scenarios. The system functions independent of user interface, and runs on PCs with Windows 2000/XP/NT 4 or Linux.

ContextVision’s GOPView USXi is an easily integrated software-based image-enhancement component for static or dynamic data. Above left is the standard ultrasound image, and above right is the same image enhanced with USXi.

“USXi’s compatibility with advanced computing technologies, such as dual-core processor technology and thread-safe algorithm implementation, enables a leap forward in digital image enhancement speed and performance,” said Jan-Erik Hedborg, president and CEO of ContextVision.

Mindray Debuts Color Ultrasound System

At the 2007 meeting of the European Congress of Radiology (ECR), held in March in Vienna, Mindray Medical International Ltd, Shenzhen, China, debuted its latest innovation: the DC-6 color diagnostic ultrasound system.

The DC-6 offers multibeam parallel imaging for better temporal resolution and real-time frame rates; fine-tissue optimization to eliminate noise and improve signal-to-noise ratios; and extended phase harmonic, which results in an enhanced harmonic signal and restrained original wave, increasing resolution and accuracy in identifying subtle pathological changes.

The system also features transmitting spectrum focusing, which decreases side lobe while improving resolution; artifact-minimizing; and accurate vessel imaging, which automatically distinguishes subtle tissue Doppler signal from blood cell to form high-resolution images. The user-friendly system features the i-Station intelligent patient information management platform; the i-Touch one-button image optimizer; and Operation Navigation, a guide module for exams. Also incorporated in the system are a DVD video recorder, CD-RW functionality, USB ports, and a VCR video recorder. An automated browser enables rapid image review, while an ergonomic keyboard and user-defined buttons provide workflow-enhancing device customization.

VIHA and GE Healthcare Enter 8-Year, $11 Million Partnership

In $11 million, 8-year agreement will allow the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA), Canada, to purchase 48 new ultrasound systems from GE Healthcare, Waukesha, Wis, while collaborating with the company to research and develop new health care technologies.

“We are very excited about working with GE because it will expand patients’ access to the most advanced diagnostic ultrasound equipment, no matter where they live on Vancouver Island,” said VIHA Board Chair Jac Kreut. “This investment in technology will bring real-time, 4D imaging and meaningful clinical benefits to our patients, including more precise diagnosis and faster exams, while reducing the inconveniences associated with repeat exams.”

VIHA provides health care to approximately 716,000 people on Vancouver Island, and operates on an annual budget of $1.3 billion. VIHA should save around $4 million over the 8-year life of the contract with GE Healthcare, while receiving the company’s advanced ultrasound technologies and established new clinical workflow and administrative processes.

“Advances in 4D imaging are enabling physicians to detect issues earlier and more accurately than ever before, while a new generation of compact designs are bringing point-of-care imaging services right to the patient,” said Terri Bresenham, vice president of diagnostic ultrasound at GE Healthcare. “This combination of new ultrasound technologies will enable VIHA physicians to address one of their biggest challenges—access to real-time diagnostic information.”

VIHA selected GE Healthcare following clinical and technical evaluations with the four major ultrasound vendors during the spring of 2006.