Big buzz over Siemens small ultrasound

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There was plenty of buzz around the smallest ultrasound, the 1.6-pound Acuson P10 from Siemens Medical Solutions, at RSNA 2007 in Chicago last month. The pocket ultrasound, the only one of its kind, which can be used to complement diagnostic care and triage in cardiology, emergency care and obstetrics.

Michael Elser, who led the product development team at Siemens, said while at RSNA, he heard a lot of, “How did you do that?” Elser said the intention of the handheld ultrasound is not to replace traditional units, but rather to use it for guidance and answer the questions, “Does this patient need a full ultrasound?” He said that then the doctor can “decide on a direction of care.”

Priced under $10,000, Elser said it is a portable tool much like the stethoscope, which is how he expects it will be used. In an emergency setting it is suitable for detecting fluid, determining cardiac activity and pericardial effusion, as well as detecting abdominal aortic aneurysms and performing pelvic exams.

Siemens unveiled the new Acuson X300 all-purpose ultrasound system, which is capable of performing vascular age assessments using the syngo Arterial Health Package (AHP) for cardiovascular risk assessment. The technique renders a combined risk score that includes factors such as a measurement of the carotid intima-media thickness, Framingham risk index assessment and comparison with the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) database. syngo AHP combines all of that information to estimate vascular age, enabling physicians to predict a person’s risk of coronary heart disease.

Providing a peek into what’s coming down the pike, Siemens had its work-in-progress Acuson S2000 on display. The company expects FDA clearance in the first quarter of 2008 for the top-of-the-line ultrasound in the new line of “S” products.

The S2000 has capabilities for paradigm-shifting applications such as acoustic radiation forced impulse (ARFI) imaging and is prepared to integrate silicon ultrasound technology. It features applications for general imaging, including obstetrics and gynecology, as well as vascular and cardiac imaging.

"We see ARFI and silicon ultrasound as the biggest changes in the industry since Doppler imaging became clinically useful," said Klaus Hambuchen, president, Siemens Medical Solutions, ultrasound division. "The Acuson S2000 system represents the pinnacle of innovative technology, workflow-enhancing clinical applications and state-of-the-art ergonomic design. It is our new premier general imaging platform that will change the way ultrasound is viewed today.”

The Acuson S2000 system is also capable of integrating Siemens' silicon ultrasound technology, which introduces the first entirely new class of ultrasound transducers in 40 years. Silicon ultrasound technology uses the precise semiconductor processing techniques of the computer chip industry to create a family of probes that will enable volumetric 4D imaging in a wide range of applications. With silicon ultrasound, clinicians will get true isotropic 3D images enabling them to see the same fine level of detail in each direction that they choose to examine the imaging data.

At the show, Siemens demonstrated automated breast scanning (ABS), a technique that provides automated, reproducible 3D ultrasound volumes of the breast that is important for the screening, diagnosis and follow-up care of breast cancer.

The Acuson S2000 features Advanced SieClear spatial computing using electronic beam steering to rapidly acquire overlapping images from different angles. In combination with Dynamic TCE tissue contrast enhancement, it further reduces speckle/noise. It also has access to high density transducer technology.

With an emphasis on the importance of ergonomics, Siemens designed the system with a simple, intuitive user interface with user-customizable controls to prevent repetitive motion injuries. The system also features motor-memory learning features  and an adjustable keyboard and 19-inch flat panel monitor to accommodate users of all heights an various scanning positions.