GE highlights MRI advances, expanded mammography product line

CHICAGO - GE Medical Systems is touting new technologies that take advantage of its Excite MRI platform at this year's RSNA conference, such as applications that reduce motion artifacts and support bilateral breast imaging. The Waukesha, WI, company is also demonstrating mammography products acquired through its recent purchase of Finnish medical device vendor Instrumentarium.

Excite is a package of enhancements introduced last year that enable GE MRI scanners to transfer, receive, and process imaging data far more quickly. The technology laid the foundation for new applications that previously weren't possible without faster data processing rates, according to Nancy Leiker, MR communications manager.

One of these applications is Propeller, a new technique that reduces motion artifacts in T2-weighted and diffusion-weighted brain images, and improves contrast-to-noise ratio by 20% to 30%. Propeller oversamples data collected during MRI exams, a process made possible by Excite. In an RSNA demonstration, a patient undergoing a brain exam moved her head from side to side during the scan, producing images that were unreadable with conventional MRI sequences. When Propeller was applied, the images were fused into a coherent and readable brain scan.

Another Excite-based technology is Vibrant, which enables bilateral MRI breast scanning with a single contrast injection, producing more information in the same amount of time as a single-breast exam. Vibrant produces images in the sagittal plane and with a smaller field of view, which is preferred by mammographers, according to the company.

The last of the three new Excite applications is Tricks, an MR angiography technique that acquires 10 times the data volume and 12 times the data processing power of conventional MRA methods, according to the company. Tricks collects one image of the static background of an image, then collects a rapid series of dynamic components and integrates the two. The result is an image with high temporal resolution, which is a benefit for studies like runoff angiography.

GE also highlighted the Signa Excite 3.0T 3-tesla MRI scanner, introduced earlier this year. The scanner features Perform, a tool that enables users to monitor power deposition in the patient over time, thus helping users avoid sequences that might exceed guidelines on specific absorption rates (SAR), a common occurrence in 3-tesla scanning. The company has installed five of the new 3-tesla magnets and expects to have shipped 15 by the end of 2003.

Excite has also trickled down to Signa OpenSpeed, GE's 0.7-tesla open-magnet system. The first Excite OpenSpeed has been installed at a facility in Illinois.

In women's imaging, GE has quickly leveraged its acquisition of Instrumentarium with the Diamond film-screen system, which can be upgraded using digital stereo, digital spot, and 3-D capability with Instrumentarium’s tuned-aperture computed tomography (TACT) technology.

GE is also showing a new work-in-progress version of its amorphous silicon-based FFDM system, Senographe DS, which features a new motorized gantry and a smaller tube head. The system uses the same molybdenum/rhodium tube found on Senographe 2000D.

GE also introduced Seno Advantage, an Advantage Windows work-in-progress multimodality breast imaging workstation. Seno Advantage will allow users to view ultrasound, mammography, MR, and PET/CT images to define and analyze nonspecific breast tissue, tumor-like densities, density changes, and architectural distortions. FDA clearance is pending for the system, which GE hopes to make available early next year. It is currently available in Europe.

In CT, GE talked up LightSpeed Pro 16, a 16-slice CT scanner introduced earlier in the year. The system features a 0.4-second gantry rotation speed, an improvement on the 0.5-second speed of the LightSpeed 16. Other CT highlights included Extreme, a data processing upgrade that does for CT what Excite did for MRI, and LightSpeed RT, a four-slice scanner with an 80-cm bore for radiation therapy simulation.

On the CT application side, GE discussed a new work-in-progress virtual dissection mode for its CT colonography package, and an AutoBone technique that separates bone from vessel in angiography studies. Meanwhile, another application, Direct MPR, enables the automatic creation of multiplanar reformat (MPR) projections. Direct MRP is available on CT consoles, while AutoBone will be found on GE's Advantage Windows image processing workstation.

In the RIS/PACS arena, GE is highlighting expanded clinical applications and enterprise connectivity, said Peter McClennen, general manager, global marketing at GE Medical Systems Information Technologies.

GE’s work-in-progress Centricity RIS/PACS 2.1 network includes image and workflow support for PET/CT and digital mammography images. The vendor has also included new tools designed for more efficient navigation and analysis of large image sets.

Reporting enhancements include embedded digital dictation and voice reporting with remote Web access, according to the vendor. Database replication has also been incorporated to ensure high availability, data redundancy, and disaster recovery, GE said.

Part of Centricity RIS/PACS 2.1, Enterprise Web 2.1 allows for enterprise sharing of radiology and cardiology images and reports, along with waveform data. It can be accessed via portal and electronic medical record (EMR) applications, including GE’s Centricity Information View, Centricity Physician Office EMR, Centricity Perioperative Manager, and certain third-party applications.

In work-in-progress displays, GE is showing the extension of advanced analysis capabilities on its Advantage workstation software to the enterprise. These applications, which will be accessible via Centricity PACS, include the AutoBone application, advanced lung analysis, PET/CT, and colonoscopy studies.

Also as part of release 2.1 (slated for release in the second half of 2004), GE will be instituting the same user interface for all GE products, McClennen said. GE is also discussing its consulting services portfolio, such as reading room design.

In digital x-ray developments, GE is debuting Precision MPi, a multipurpose R&F and interventional digital x-ray system. Utilizing a CCD-based digital detector, Precision MPi can fit into a 12 x 12-foot room, said Andrew Mack, manager, Americas x-ray marketing.

The system provides angulated imaging to separate overlying anatomic structures for clearer viewing, according to the vendor. Expected to be available in the first quarter of 2004, Precision MPi will range in price from $600,000 to $900,000, depending on configuration.

GE received Food and Drug Administration 510(k) clearance for Precision MPi in late November; the system replaces the discontinued TiltC+ in GE’s product line. GE is also introducing 3D In-room Control, an add-on feature for vascular labs that provides tableside control of GE’s Advantage workstation software.

In addition, the vendor has added new software applications for its Revolution XR/d digital x-ray platform. RapidScreen Digital, offered via a partnership with Deus Technologies, is a computer-aided detection system designed to improve detection of lung cancer. GE is also pointing to its dual-energy subtraction technology, which was introduced at the 2002 RSNA meeting.

In work-in-progress displays, GE is showing tomosynthesis capability for XR/d, while  Innova 4100 has received a new tilting table. The vendor is also discussing a work-in-progress 3-D capability on Innova 4100, a feature that’s scheduled for release by the end of next year.

In nuclear medicine, GE is highlighting a new SPECT camera platform, Infinia VC Hawkeye. The system employs 1-inch Elite detectors based on an etched crystal design developed by Bicron of Newbury, OH, and matched with 95 photomultiplier tubes. The design gives the camera the ability to conduct imaging at both low and high energy resolutions, according to Jeff Kao, general manager of GE's nuclear medicine business.

The Infinia platform also includes new electronics, and a new gantry design that uses articulated detector heads, making it possible for the camera to image patients on gurneys with heads in a parallel position. The slice thickness of the Hawkeye CT attenuation correction mode can also be varied. GE has shipped three Infinia VC systems so far, Kao said.

In molecular imaging, GE is showcasing a new small-animal PET camera designed for preclinical research such as drug discovery.

In the ultrasound section of its booth, GE announced upgrades to its flagship Logiq 9 platform, and its Voluson 730 Expert series 3-D scanner. Key new features on Logiq 9 include CrossBeam, which enhances border definition without impacting frame rate.

Speckle Reduction Imaging (SRI) is a method for eliminating speckle by utilizing adaptive real-time software algorithms that smooth images in areas where no borders or edges are present, while preserving borders where differences in echogenicity occur.

VoiceScan is a voice-activated control feature that allows physicians and sonographers to control system functions by voice command. By talking into a wireless headset, operators can interact with Logiq 9 and have it perform more than 150 actions. Sonographers “train” the Logiq 9 by reading a 15-minute CD-based story that allows the platform to recognize speech patterns.

Voluson 730’s most important feature, according to the company, is Fetal Echo, a 4-D ultrasound technology available on the Voluson Expert that allows physicians to visualize the complete fetal heart in color without external triggering devices.

By Brian Casey, Erik L. Ridley, and Robert Bruce staff writers
December 2, 2003

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