CDU Associate

GE Healthcare (Waukesha, Wisconsin) has unveiled what it touted as the "visual stethoscope of the future," a new, miniaturized cardiovascular ultrasound system it said was so small and lightweight that it will transform the way doctors see and treat heart disease. The company said the new Vivid i is the world's first miniaturized cardiovascular ultrasound system, the result of integrating more than 20 years of expertise in ultrasound and cutting-edge computing technologies, as well as new technology developed by GE researchers.

Al Lojewski, global marketing manager, cardiovascular ultrasound, spoke to Cardiovascular Device Update from the European Society of Cardiology (ECS; Sophia Antipolis, France) meeting in Munich, Germany, where the system is being globally launched. "In my 20-plus years in this field, I've never seen a product introduction this large," he said, noting the crowds of physicians around the company's booth to see a demonstration of the device and its more advanced cousin, the Vivid 7, a 4-D imaging system. Omar Ishrak, president and CEO of GE Healthcare's Ultrasound business, said the new system would establish a new standard of efficiency for physicians. "The mobility of Vivid i will enable physicians to deliver care to the patient wherever it's needed. The freedom laptops and PDAs have brought to business will now be available to healthcare."

The company said it believes the Vivid i will enhance the efficiency and reach of physicians by offering the functionality and high performance of full-featured, larger-scale systems – but in a portable and wireless design that weighs 30 times less. The system makes it possible for patients to receive diagnostic exams anywhere, including bedside, as opposed to being transported to an imaging lab in a hospital. GE's engineers developed Vivid i by miniaturizing the components of a premium echocardiography system weighing more than 400 pounds, to provide a portable system weighing only 10 pounds.

Lojewski said it has taken some time to achieve GE's vision for the system, but advances in technology have made the Vivid i a reality. "We started really on a vision of moving our ultrasound products to software-based computing products. We've invested about five years and around $100 million in R&D."

The company said the Vivid i's portability also makes it ideal for urgent care areas, including the operating room, critical care and for mobile imaging services and outpatient clinics. Vivid i also features wireless capabilities, enabling physicians to transfer files instantly from the system to other physicians for consultation. As a result, physicians will be able to more quickly diagnose and treat patients and help ensure their patients are more informed and involved in their healthcare decisions.

Joseph Hogan, president and CEO of GE Healthcare Technologies, said the increasing miniaturization of ultrasound technology allows physicians to treat patients in the most effective, least-invasive manner possible. "Vivid i addresses one of the biggest challenges physicians face in caring for their patients – access to complete, real-time information," he said in a company statement. "As GE Healthcare continues to improve on the portability and convenience of ultrasound technology, I believe it will become the visual stethoscope of the future."

Aside from the obvious portability advantages, Lojewski also pointed out that because of the system's small size it can be utilized better in places where space is at a premium. "So not only does the [system offer] the convenience of movement, but since it also addresses the space challenges in a cardiac care unit it has really gotten people excited." Another thing that he said got the attention of physicians on the ESC exhibit floor is the system's complete onboard archive and information management communication tools. "On this system [physicians] can communicate directly to the central lab if they have any questions from virtually anywhere."

The system is different from products produced by hand-held competitors such as SonoSite (Bothell, Washington), which he said are primarily focused on screening. "We really don't consider this a hand-held product," Lojewski said. "We consider it a complete echo[cardiography] machine."

Lojewski said the price of the Vivid i system begins at around $80,000 and goes up from there, depending on whether a customer wants specialized transducers for a variety of applications.

Within GE Healthcare, Vivid i is considered an "Imagination Breakthrough" product – a major new invention with significant clinical and productivity value for clinicians and patients. Products with this designation are given additional resources and additional focus to hasten their time to market.

Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric (Fairfield, Connecticut) and a former president of the business now known as GE Healthcare, identified the Vivid i as a device worthy of the special designation.

GE Healthcare received 510(k) clearances from the FDA for Vivid i early this year. The company said the system would be commercially available in the U.S. beginning this fall.

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