Michael K. Robinson
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- An amorphous silicon detector built by EG&G in Santa Clara will form the backbone of General Electric's new digital x-ray system, which could reduce or eliminate the need for x-ray film as well as speed processing time and extend image availability. The announcement of the agreement is the culmination of what has been a 10- year, $100 million research and development effort for GE.
According to Marshall Poindexter, media relations manager for GE Medical Systems of Milwaukee, discussing future sales of the digital x-ray system is premature. "It is too early in the product development cycle to tell." Poindexter added, though, that the company plans to submit a request for premarket approval of the device to the US Food and Drug Administration in early 1998.
A GE design
EG&G has exclusive rights to manufacture the detectors, which were designed by GE. Martin Reynolds, manager of corporate communications at EG&G, said that in 1999, the company expects to generate about $50 million in sales of the device for GE's system. He added that while the GE system will be the only medical application of the detector, EG&G is free to pursue other nonmedical markets such as nondestructive testing.
The digital x-ray system promises improvements over conventional film x-rays. The new technology will allow radiologists to study an image almost immediately. Also, because the image is digital, it can be transferred by computer in minutes and can be stored electronically, eliminating massive x-ray libraries.
The 41 3 41-cm panel is the largest x-ray detector available. Like conventional x-ray film, the large detector panel allows for one-to-one imaging, in which the body part being imaged is in contact with the detector or x-ray film.
According to Andres Buser, general manager for EG&G Amorphous Silicon in Santa Clara, the digital detector is comparable to film x-rays. He said the 2000 3 2000-pixel array has a wider dynamic range, meaning that there is a broader variation between the lightest and the darkest portions of an image.
The one-to-one imaging capability reduces many of the problems associated with other forms of digital x-ray, especially distortions and loss of light caused by the need to use lenses to reduce the image prior to detection.