Medical Device Daily

MUNICH, Germany — Throughout the ESC congress hundreds of scientific presentations were animated with colorful, video-like images of beating hearts and valve function.

It was almost a celebration for cardiologists to be able to depict so clearly the condition being addressed with therapy.

What was startling about these vivid images generated by 3-D ultrasound is not that they are new, but that they have been so sharply enhanced and that they seemed to be everywhere.

The streamlining of cardiovascular ultrasound is a breakthrough in the background of heart centers.

Easily rolled to the patient's side on trolleys, instantly accessible for cardiologists without the intervention of a radiologist, and increasingly easy to use, high-end ultrasound has become the diagnostic tool of choice.

The updated ESC Guidelines on Valvular Heart Disease, for example, do not so much put echography on a pedestal as place it as a pillar for patient assessment and evaluation.

The enthusiasm was especially evident on the exhibition floor at ESC as clinicians crowded the stands of the major vendors of high-end ultrasound systems helping Philips Healthcare (Eindhoven, the Netherlands), Siemens Healthcare (Erlangen, Germany), GE Healthcare (Buc, France) and Toshiba Medical Systems (Zoetermeer, the Netherlands) rival the heavy traffic traditionally found at major pharmaceutical vendors.

There was only a passing interest in the heavy metal machines for angiography and computed tomography (CT).

“These are hands-on people,“ explained Christoph Simm, Senior Manager of the Business Unit Ultrasound at Toshiba.

Make no mistake, he said, cardiologists are important customers for CT and angiography, but ultrasound is something they can touch and ven perform immediately on the stand.

“We can tell them about the CT, we can show them the images, but we are not about to turn it on here,“ he said.

“What they really like is picking up the transducer and feeling the weight in their hands, watching the image quality in real time,“ he said. “This is a tool they will be using six hours each day.“

Their focus is entirely different from a radiologist as well, he said, as they are interested in treatment indications rather than diagnostic indications.

Assessing function is more critical than distinguishing anatomy.

At ESC, Toshiba introduced a cardiovascular package for its new Apilo line of echo-scanners, having migrated features, essentially software, from the higher-end Artida series.

“Image quality is the first criteria for cardiologists,“ said Simm, followed by the speed and workflow.

For the sales force, the key is to help cardiologists appreciate the features that go beyond what meets the eye.

Speckle tracking, for example, becomes critical to functional assessment for wall motion as well as software features for quantification and measurement.