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2003 may prove to be computer tomography's (CT) biggest year yet, as vendors brought to Chicago technology that produces faster scanning times, more patient information with a multitude of additional slices and design concessions for larger patients.

Siemens Medical Solutions upped the ante in CT with the introduction of its SOMATOM Sensation 64 multislice CT scanner. The upgrade to the Sensation 16 is set for its first clinical installation in May 2004 and commercial availability in October 2004. The Sensation 64 has the same footprint as the Sensation 16.

On the Sensation 16, Siemens introduced a wide-bore gantry, with an emphasis on oncology and radiation therapy planning applications, as well as scanning obese patients. The gantry has an 82 cm bore, as well as a corresponding 82 cm field-of-view.

Siemens also launched its FDA-cleared syngo LungCare lung viewing technology designed to aid physicians in the diagnosis of pulmonary nodules. Siemens expects syngo LungCare to be available by March.

Other CT advances include the Straton x-ray tube design, which the company describes as an "integral part of Siemens new Speed4D technology for Somatom Sensation scanners." The Straton provides direct cooling of the anode and all bearings are located outside the vacuum for cooling rates of five million heat units (MHU) per minute.

The tube's capabilities allow for a gantry speed of 0.37 seconds per rotation in both cardiac and whole-body applications.

Philips Medical Systems is expanding its CT portfolio with its new Brilliance line of scanners. The Brilliance platform adds new six-, 10-, 16- and 40-slice configurations to Philips' CT roster.

At the top of the ladder is the Brilliance 40-slice CT scanner, which recently received FDA clearance and is designed to provide clinicians with more in-depth information nearly three times faster than other multislice systems. With its ability to reconstruct up to 40 images per second, Philips says the Brilliance 40 will benefit organ perfusion studies, coronary artery imaging, pulmonary imaging, and critical care.

Philips plans to install its first clinical Brilliance 40 scanner in February and commence production and commercial availability in October. The Brilliance 16-slice CT scanner begins shipments in March.

Toshiba America Medical Systems (TAMS) at RSNA unveiled its new works-in-progress Aquilion 32-slice CT scanner - complete with the company's 64-row detector design, isotropic scanning and image reconstruction technology. 

The system's hybrid 64-row Quantum detector can produce 32 simultaneous slices of 0.5 mm or 1 mm with each gantry revolution for a total Z-axis coverage of 32 mm. TAMS says the result is isotropic imaging in both the head and body field-of-view with high geometric efficiency. The Aquilion 32 also accommodates larger patients with a 72 cm aperture, the ability to tilt 30 degrees and a scan range of 1,800 cm for taller patients.

Commercial shipments are anticipated for the fourth quarter of this year.

TAMS also displayed its Aquilion 16 which generates up to 40 slices per second through TAMS' Selectable Slice-thickness Multi-row Detector (SSMD) and permits simultaneous 16-slice acquisition per 400-millisecond gantry rotation for volumetric data acquisition.

GE Medical Systems' (GEMS) LightSpeed RT multislice CT system made its RSNA debut. The scanner is designed specifically for radiation therapy (RT) planning and offers a gantry opening of 80 cm - 10 cm larger - for better patient positioning and a 65 cm field-of-view - 15 cm larger than conventional views - for visualization of peripheral anatomic details.

LightSpeed RT also offers Advantage 4D, GEMS' new respiratory gating software for tumor and organ motion assessment and margin localization. The LightSpeed RT carries a list price in the range of $1.1 million, depending on configuration.

Added to GEMS' CT repertoire is Xtream, which the company describes as a "workflow productivity engine" for rapid image reconstruction and real-time, gigabyte image transfer rates to review stations or PACS.

It is available on GEMS' four-, eight- and 16-slice CT scanners.