All Digital Ultrasound: An Ultrasharp Cancer Sleuth

Ultrasound images, even on high-end machines, are sometimes fuzzy and imprecise. The trouble is that about half the sound spectrum gets lost in the device commonly used to receive and process the sound waves. On Apr. 16, Advanced Technology Laboratories Inc. in Bothell, Wash., introduced a new generation of all-digital ultrasound that promises to overcome this disadvantage.

ATL's High Definition Imaging machine uses as many channels as its analog competitors, but it captures and preserves a much broader band of ultrasound signals per channel. This allows doctors to visualize small differences in tissue composition, which is especially useful in diagnosis of cancer in body parts such as breasts, testicles, the thyroid, and the appendix that are difficult to detect with current technology.

With ultrasound sales of $287 million, ATL has a 16% share of the $1.8 billion worldwide market. The company hopes the new device, which costs about $200,000, or a 10% to 20% premium over its current digital entry, will help it to win more market share from rivals Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, and Acuson.

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