s03a.jpg (7862 bytes)The ultrasound landscape has changed quite a bit over the last couple of years — and one more industry alteration could come by RSNA 2000.

Gone are several of the large independent ultrasound manufacturers and Acuson Corp. (Mountain View, Calif.) may join the list before the end of this year.

On Sept. 27, Siemens Medical Engineering Group (Erlangen, Germany) signed to acquire Acuson for $23 per share or $700 million. The proposed deal could close before year’s end. The deal received regulatory approval in Germany in October.

If the acquisition comes to fruition, Acuson would follow the former Diasonics Vingmed Ultrasound Ltd. and ATL Ultrasound Inc. into the ranks of much larger companies.

The PowerVision 8000 will be the ultrasound emphasis from Toshiba America Medical Systems (TAMS of Tustin, Calif.). The all-digital system is a fully configured 512-channel ultrasound system for whole-body, radiology and cardiology imaging.

The 8000 will have new transducer technology available at RSNA, including an interoperative linear transducer for small parts imaging and another linear array for superficial applications including breast and musculoskeletal. It is equipped with Toshiba’s “chip in a chip” technology to employ an integrated circuit in the transducer to capture more information.

Agilent Technologies Inc.’s Healthcare Solutions Group (Andover, Mass.) will use RSNA to launch the Sonus 4500 performance multi-specialty ultrasound system. The 4500 is used in cardiac, abdominal, ob/gyn, pediatric and small parts/vascular work. The Fusion Imaging and Ultraband transducers provide improved tissue texture and more information. It also features the Sonos QuickTouch user interface to place all imaging modules and controls at the clinician’s fingertips.

ATL Ultrasound (Bothell, Wash.), a Philips Medical Systems Co., plans to unveil the second generation of its SonoCT real-time compounding imaging technology. The updated version allows SonoCT to be used on more scanheads for additional applications and merges it with image processing technologies, tissue harmonic imaging and extended field of view.

SonoCT was released a year ago to strong reviews by clinicians and customers. It uses digital beam forming to send and receive nine different ultrasound beams providing different angles and lines of sight and combine them into one image, reducing artifacts while improving contrast resolution.

The new, more powerful version can be used on curved array transducers. New applications include obstetrical imaging, such as fetal cardiac imaging, and a variety of abdominal applications. It also is available with extended field of view and 3D capabilities.

Medison America Inc. (Cypress, Calif.) showcases its new SonoAce 9900. The ultrasound system has a digital NT Windows platform, multibeam 3D capability for a higher resolution, and is DICOM ready. Medison targets the mid-range market with a price between $55,000 and $85,000. While the product mainly is used in ob/gyn applications, general imaging and specialized areas of cardiac and vascular imaging also will be explored. SonoAce 9900 also features 2D imaging, color and power Doppler, harmonics, contrast harmonics, and continuous wave and pulse wave Doppler.

Also on display will be two products awaiting FDA approval, as of press time — the Voluson 730 and mysono. The Voluson 730 is a 512-channel ultrasound system built on an NT platform that can acquire 3D volume data in real time. The product will be targeted at the high-end market.

Mysono is a portable, notebook-sized ultrasound unit that will be sold exclusively through the Internet. Medison is marketing it as “affordable, portable, easy ultrasound” for less than $10,000.

Acuson storms RSNA with several new technologies for the company’s sophisticated Sequoia ultrasound platform.

Bill Carrano, Acuson’s vice president of worldwide marketing, says the company’s new tissue equalization (TEQ) technology answers the question of whether ultrasound echoes are coming from soft tissue — which means they are diagnostic in nature — or from artifacts, noise or specular reflectors, which tend to degrade image quality. TEQ technology works when a technologist pushes a button to set the brightness of the image, instantly, in 2D. The result is a consistent image without the clutter that gets in the way of a radiologist’s reading and diagnosis.

The TEQ feature operates and processes the echo information at the front-end of the system, before the image is formed, unlike existing technologies that employ a post-processing technique to modify the brightness or the grayscale of the image just before it goes to the monitor.

Carrano says the new technology will prove useful in portable studies, where the lighting at bedside or remote environments is not conducive to ultrasound imaging, and in serial follow-up studies, where consistent image quality over a period of time is an issue.

Acuson is awaiting patent approval for the technology.

The company also will showcase its new Cadence contrast agent imaging package, which includes coherent contrast imaging (CCI) and agent detection imaging (ADI) features. The enabling technology that allows for CCI and ADI is coherent pulse formation, with precision pulse shaping and single pulse cancellation, which provides high sensitivity to contrast agent harmonic echoes while maintaining high frame rates.

CCI permits continuous imaging of contrast agents without destroying the bubbles, thus allowing for real-time results from the contrast agent without destroying the agent. ADI isolates and separates the contrast echoes from tissue echoes; as a result, the physician can see the additional information the contrast agent provides easily and clearly.

Acuson also will highlight its new eUltrasound offering, which begins with a DIMAQ integrated ultrasound workstation, a portable sonographer’s workstation on both the Sequoia and Aspen ultrasound systems. The DIMAQ workstation generates a digital dynamic clip which allows 2D grayscale and color Doppler images to be transferred from the Sequoia or the Aspen platforms to the KinetDx, a complete PACS solution, or to the Companion workstation, a scaled-down PACS.

The digital dynamic clip is a real-time study; it meets DICOM standards; and is DICOM JPEG-compressed. It provides a full picture of a patient’s study, much like a movie video, as compared to a standard cine loop, which renders a study in still photographs.

Additional technologies debuting at the show include compounding features for the Sequoia and Aspen models, and a chirp coded excitation technology.

Transmit compounding, for the Sequoia only, combines multiple transmitted images to reduce image speckle and improve contrast resolution.

FreeStyle compounding, based on the digital dynamic clip, expands the effective aperture and provides a compounded extended field-of-view image.

Siemens Medical Systems Inc.’s Ultrasound Group (Issaquah, Wash.) will offer new features and enhancements for its Sonoline Elegra, Omnia and Sienna at RSNA 2000.

For the premium Elegra system, Siemens will showcase SieClear multi-view spatial compounding, a new advanced version of SieScape panoramic imaging, and upgrades to the Elegra’s DICOM connectivity.

SieClear multi-view spatial compounding is designed to improve the visual definition of boundaries and interfaces in ultrasound images. The visualization of subtle lesions and instruments used during image-guided biopsy techniques may be enhanced. The works-in-progress also is expected to deliver a smoother visual appearance through the reduction of speckle in the images. SieClear will be available for use with all transducers and with other Siemens innovations, such as SieScape, Photopic ultrasound imaging, and 3-Scape real-time 3D imaging, as well as an integrated tool with Doppler and color imaging.

To further demonstrate panoramic imaging, Siemens has developed an advanced version of SieScape, which is designed to make this imaging tool easier to learn and use. New features include the ability to erase a part of the ultrasound image by reversing the scan and rewriting an area of interest.

The newest feature for the Sonoline Omnia and Sienna is 3D Express ultra-fast 3D rendering. This feature has been seamlessly integrated into both systems and features one-touch, freehand data acquisition. 3D images of a fetus can be acquired and displayed in one to four seconds with any convex or linear array transducer, while implementing a linear or rocked acquisition technique.

3D Express also can be used with other Siemens ultrasound features, including Ensemble tissue harmonic imaging on the Sonoline Omnia. Other 3D Express features — available on both the Omnia and the Sienna — include five rendering modes, 3D zoom, image rotation, and editing capabilities.

3D Express is not yet commercially available in the U.S.

Hitachi Medical Corp. of America (Twinsburg, Ohio) says the cardiac market is a new focus for the company. With that in mind, Hitachi will introduce the EUB 6000CV cardiovascular ultrasound system at RSNA. The EUB 6000CV has a fully digital beamformer with 256-channel quad processing and wide-band focusing to maximize frame rate and resolution from near-field to far-field. The system utilizes a Windows NT-based operation system and is applicable for radiology, ob/gyn, vascular, cardiac, urology and endoscopy.

GE Medical Systems (GEMS of Waukesha, Wis.) will focus its exhibit on the new features available this year on the Logiq 700 Expert series. In late May, GEMS released its Breakthrough 2000 package for the 700, which focuses heavily on coded beam technology. The new package includes additional codes for its B-Flow imaging for study of blood flow and vessels, bringing B-Flow to some new transducers and applications.

Coded harmonic angio imaging also is under development by GEMS, but the technology is not cleared yet for use in the U.S. The technology enhances signal detection and can customize codes for different contrast agents and applications.

Jeff Peiffer, manager of America’s ultrasound marketing, says coded contrast means “being able to code the beam to maximize how you view or image the micro-bubble and being able to control the beam to burst the bubbles and deliver drugs.” List price on the Logiq 700 Pro ranges between $170,000 to $200,000, depending on features.

GEMS also will show migration of some new technologies to the Logiq 500 and 400 Pro systems. The 500 has been enhanced with automatic optimization in the spectral Doppler mode with the addition of the i12L transducer. The low-end 400 sells for less than $75,000 and features a digital beamformer and automatic tissue optimization.

SonoSite Inc. (Bothell, Wash.) travels to RSNA this year with a new software program and a new hardware product.

SonoSite wants to extend the reach of a customer’s SonoSite hand-held ultrasound system with SiteLink image manager, a software program used to transfer saved images from SonoSite ultrasound systems to a host PC. The company markets the program as a low-cost, simple solution for archiving images. It also suggests that the program enables images to be shared with patients and with physicians in remote locations or incorporated into slides or other presentations.

SiteLink operates in conjunction with a SiteStand mobile docking station and a serial cable to move images to a PC running Windows software. Transfer time typically takes 10 to 15 seconds per image, depending on PC serial card speed and image size, with transfer image size in the 800 to 1200 KB range. Transfer image format is Microsoft Windows BMP image file, uncompressed digital images. BMP images can be converted to other standard image formats such as jpeg or tiff using InfanView, SonoSite’s basic image-viewing program, which is included. Images may be printed, archived or used as e-mail attachments.

The C11, a broadband curved array transducer, is the company’s newest neonatal transducer.

The C11 accommodates three imaging modes: 2D, color power Doppler and PowerMap directional color power Doppler. It is designed for four clinical applications — neonatal head, pediatric and neonatal abdomen, vascular access and assessment, and pediatric echo. The C11 is a lightweight, pinless connector with an 11 mm broadband curved array, 10 cm maximum depth and 90-degree maximum field-of-view. It interfaces with the SonoSite 180 or SonoHeart hand-carried ultrasound system with C11/7-4 MHz transducer support.

SiteLink Image Manager is currently available. The C11 began shipping in October.

Cedara Software Corp. (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada) will show off the fruits of its acquisition of Dicomit DICOM Information Technologies Corp. (Markham, Ontario, Canada) by showing the Dicomit Information Manager. This product connects an ultrasound console to a DICOM imaging network with real-time capture and replay, and advanced modality worklist management.

A year after its release, the Technos ultrasound platform from Biosound Esaote (Genoa, Italy) returns to RSNA. Technos’ digital beamformer and advanced electronics with reprogrammable microchips are designed to work with a wide range of low-impedance transducers to create clean, precise images. The probes offer wide bandwidth and Technos’ optional TEI feature increases signal-to-noise ratio in order to obtain enhanced medical images in difficult-to-scan patients.

Aloka Co. Ltd. (Wallingford, Conn.) is expected to introduce a new member of the ProSound series of performance imaging platforms at RSNA. In addition to this product’s introduction, the latest enhancements to Aloka’s ProSound SSD-5500 PHD and ProSound SSD-5000 PHD platforms will be on display.

The ProSound digital pure beam imaging platform utilizes hemispheric sound technology (HST) in its advanced transducer for improved spatial resolution and signal-to-noise ratio. The ProSound’s multidisciplinary architecture enables Aloka to offer versatility over a wide range of clinical applications.

In addition, Aloka’s pure harmonic detection is designed to provide improved tissue differentiation and enhanced contrast resolving power where difficult patient body habitus is present and complex clinical assessment of morphology is required. end.gif (810 bytes)