Relieving the amount of physical stress sonographers experience every day was a key driver motivating vendors to enhance their existing lines of ultrasound systems for RSNA 2003. In addition to a handful of new systems and features revealed, the units got more compact, but better in performance - one company even paved the way for the introduction of wireless technology into ultrasound.

Siemens Medical Solutions announced at RSNA a release of performance advancements for its Acuson Sequoia ultrasound system. Currently available on the Sequoia 512, the release includes further expansion of Siemens' TEQ technology, which in addition to producing a two-dimensional image, it now offers instant optimization for spectral Doppler imaging. According to Siemens, this enhanced technology reduces the amount of time sonographers spend adjusting for patient-specific variables.

In addition, the enhancements include a new 1024 transducer, a high frequency, small footprint probe for neonatal and pediatric imaging, as well as spatial compounding plus, a real-time, steered image compounding technique.

Siemens showcased its new fourSight 4D ultrasound system that permits real-time display of 3D images and will be integrated into the Sonoline Antares ultrasound system along with two new MultiHertz 4D transducers. A StellarPlus upgrade was announced for the Antares system as well, which includes the new PX4-1 matrix-array transducer for transcranial and abdominal imaging and digital clips that preserve image quality throughout the exam process in a DICOM standard format.

GE Medical Systems at RSNA displayed its family line of Logiq ultrasound systems at the show, from its full-sized premium scanner - Logiq 9 - to their compact hand carried system - Logiq 3.

Logiq 9 has been enhanced with new features, the company announced, including CrossBeam, speckle reduction imaging (SRI) and VoiceScan.

CrossBeam extends the system's spatial compounding technology by featuring simultaneous side-by-side displays, support for high-frequency coded harmonics and selectable number of compounded angles. A voice-activated control feature, VoiceScan, is triggered when physicians and sonographers talk into a wireless headset, allowing them to interact with the scanner and have it perform more than 150 actions.

SRI technology, now available on Logiq 9, was unveiled at the show as a means to reduce the speckle inherent in ultrasound imaging, improving overall appearance and contrast of the images.

"Our family of scanner products are really complete, beginning with the Logiq 9, which is the high end leadership in radiology, Logiq 7, Logiq 5, 3 and the laptop version - Logiq Book," says Robert Thompson, global marketing manager for GE. "What's unique about the family is that they all have the same user interface. The Logiq 9 has the latest technology and it's migrated into the other systems over time."

The Logiq 3 is the newest addition to the family, introduced this year.

Philips Medical Systems at RSNA touted improvements to its EnVisor. Tagged as its fastest-selling ultrasound system ever, EnVisor has been upgraded to include QuickSCAN intelligent technologies, six new transducers, on-line OB trending and more international languages. With a system cost of less than $100,000, EnVisor's new transducers expand EnVisor's clinical utility to include small parts, vascular, radiology, obstetrics(OB)/gynecology (GYN), and cardiology.

The latest upgrade to the Philips HDI 4000 system combines patented High Definition Imaging with live 3D (4D) imaging and data management tools for broad clinical utility in the OB/GYN practice. Making 3D volume acquisition and manipulation easier, the system is now equipped with twice the volume rendering speed for improved 3D exam workflow. Also improved are the device's 2D, 3D and MPR resolution.

Wireless technology and Toshiba America Medical Systems paired at RSNA 2003. The company highlighted a number of technological advancements on Aplio, its high-end ultrasound system.

Iassist, the newest component to Aplio, is driven by Bluetooth wireless technology. It enables remote operation of the entire ultrasound system. Similar in look and feel to a television remote control, the Iassist controller can engage the system from several feet away and is capable of customizing and sharing clinical protocols between other Aplio systems.

Toshiba also equipped the ultrasound device with a complete range of transducers that include convex, linear and sector transducers for trapezoid imaging. The transducers feature what the company describes as "high-performance" piezoelectric ceramics engineered specifically for ultrasound applications to increase bandwidth and deliver optimum spatial resolution.

In addition, Aplio can be used in conjunction with next-generation contrast imaging agents, permitting the system to perform highly complex data operations, such as real-time contrast imaging. The development is based on Toshiba's Intelligent Component Architecture (ICA).

New from Hitachi Medical Systems is the HI Vision 8500 Premium Ultrasound System combining Sono MR Imaging with user-oriented operation to boost image quality and workflow.  The integrated Sono MR package is comprised of advanced techniques for image enhancement and control, including HI Compound for real-time, multi-angle compound imaging, HI Res imaging, dynamic Tissue Harmonic Imaging with four modes, including two that employ Wideband Pulse Inversion as well as a Penetration mode for imaging deeper structures, Raw Data Freeze that allows adjustment of critical parameters such as gain and dynamic range after an image has been frozen.

Sono Elastography is a new technology utilizing a compression technique to assess tissue elasticity.  Visualizing the elastic properties of tissue is being investigated as an aid to help differentiate between benign and malignant tumors.  Elastography, also known as Strain Imaging, places a color overlay on top of a traditional grayscale image. The color display shows the degree of hardness, or elasticity, of the tissue being scanned. Sono Elastography is currently being evaluated as an aid for breast and prostate imaging and is available as an option on the Hitachi HI Vision 8500 ultrasound scanner.

Hitachi also previewed its works-in-progress Virtual Sonography that uses a standard desktop computer to display CT and ultrasound images side by side.  Displaying the CT image along with the ultrasound image gives a more complete anatomic view. The use of Virtual Sonography may provide a method for performing ultrasound-guided biopsies and for Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) therapy, according to Hitachi. 

SonoSite, developer of the Titan portable ultrasound system, highlighted at RSNA new features to the compact device, including a software package for vascular imaging and expanded connectivity capabilities.

Titan incorporates the company's ASIC technology (application specific integrated circuit), which integrates millions of transistors onto one chip and keeps the device slim at seven pounds. Booting up in 12 seconds, the company says the next step will be getting the system to boot even faster - in six seconds.

Titan offers users 2D split screen imaging, directional color power Doppler and steerable color box on liner array transducers, DICOM print and store board, pulsed wave Doppler with Duplex imaging and volume flow measurement.

After three long years in development, Medison Co. of Cypress, Calif., revealed its new Accuvix XQ and SonoAce Pico ultrasound systems at RSNA.

Accuvix, Medison's flagship ultrasound product, is powered by 1024 channel digital beamforming technology and frequency compound imaging. The system features live3D imaging - the technology needed to smoothly render moving fetus and organs in real time. Image quality has improved in part to the implementation of Full Spectrum Imaging and auto-imaging optimization technologies.

Accuvix's storage features vary, including a high-capacity internal hard drive, a MO disk and a CD/CDRW drives. SonoView II software comes installed, allowing the user to thumbnail image display and transmit images via DICOM 3.0 networking functionality as well as being able to export images in JPEG, TIFF and BMB file formats.

SonoAce Pico is Medison's new color, digital, portable ultrasound system. About the size of a briefcase, the device includes features such as spectral, color and power Doppler and freehand 3D for 2D and 3D images in both color and black and white imaging. The device connects via DICOM for direct sending of scanned images using a networking (LAN) option.

Pyramid Medical Inc. at RSNA highlighted it Digital Imager for archiving and networking a complete digital echo study, including full motion B, M, Doppler, color and audio. The system can handle full-length video and still images. The Digital Imager, which sits on top of the ultrasound system, relays images with the touch of a footswitch. The middle footswitch takes still images and the outside two take and store full length videos with audio. The images and videos are stored under the patients name, ID number and examination date. With the push of one button the studies are sent to the physician for reporting, via a local area network (wirless or wired) or a wide area network including the internet and email.

The Digital Imagers also can be connected to a C-arm, gamma camera, CT or MRI system and can handle an hour or more of video. Images can be reviewed with a DICOM viewer.