SonoSite debuts new portable ultrasound system

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SonoSite Inc. this week launched its new MicroMaxx - its third generation hand-carried ultrasound systems. At slightly under eight pounds, it is roughly the size of a laptop computer. MicroMaxx has been created to match the image resolution and performance of larger, more expensive cart-based systems.    

"The fact that hand-carried [systems] now will rival the larger high-end cart systems against which we are benchmarking our imaging performance, should open up a lot of improvement opportunities for larger ultrasound users," Kevin M. Goodwin, President and CEO of SonoSite told Health Imaging News. "One of the things that's been true since the beginning of hand-held ultrasounds has been that the performance wasn't really there to do the really heavy lifting in diagnostic work. We think we're there now."
   
One of the major appeals of such portable devices is that they fit into current trends by healthcare organizations to boost efficiency and productivity, decrease risk, enable point-of-care service, and please specialists who will be able to get more done in shorter periods of time. Goodwin says in settings such as critical care where tests like echocardiograms can be completed in 20 to 30 minutes using this portable system, a patient could potentially wait through a three hour backlog using traditional methods.

Goodwin added that the system can be up and running in 10 seconds and is designed to require little user-control to produce quality images.
   
SonoSite is happy to boast that the system, which was designed with the military in mind, is so durable that you can drop it and it will still work, unlike some larger but yet more delicate systems on the market. Their confidence in the system's durability has provoked them to offer a warranty instead of a service plan.
   
"The amount of failure in the system is minimal. So, we're coming out with a five year warranty and reducing the need for companies to pay for service contracts which is a big cost. Customers pay 10 percent a year on service contracts, which is 10 percent of the original service price. We're taking that cost off the table," said Goodwin.
   
Portable ultrasound systems are also increasing the areas in which ultrasound is used, such as emergency medicine, anesthesiology, as well as general and specialized surgery, SonoSite said.
   
One physician who has used the MicroMaxx in the field, Pat Whitworth, MD, director of the Nashville Breast Center, said that "it's a huge advantage to have this type of device in the office during exams, or even during procedures, instead of having to coordinate with a radiology department" at a later time.
   
Whitworth said that in his experience this portable device also has an extremely high quality of image that has usually only been associated with the larger ultrasound systems, and wasn't available in earlier portable models.
  
Some of the technical features of MicroMaxx include SonoSite's proprietary Chip Fusion technology, which has achieved integration of multiple ultrasound functions onto a single ASIC and contributed to the size and high-resolution performance. Additional technical features include a 128-channel beamformer, the front end of an ultrasound system, which is integrated into four postage stamp-sized ASIC chips, and battery operation for up to four hours, SonoSite said.

The new broadband digital beamformer supports extended bandwidth transducers for scanning in a wide range of clinical applications. The transducers being introduced with the MicroMaxx system include:

  • the HFL 38 /13-6 transducer for breast, small parts, vascular, IMT and nerve imaging;
  • the P17/5-1 transducer for abdominal, cardiac and obstetrical scanning;
  • the C60e/5-2 transducer for abdominal, obstetrical and gynecological scanning; and
  • the TEE/8-3 transducer for transesophageal echocardiography scanning.

The MicroMaxx system also offers the option of embedded SonoCalc IMT software designed for early detection and management of cardiovascular disease.