Top of the line ultrasound machines offer tremendous prestige and profits to the manufacturers so there is a constant catching up as each brand makes regular updates to keep up with the technological advances of it’s competitors in this segment. This has been especially true with the cardiac ultrasound segment. Philips has long held an advantage in cardiac and the Philips iE33 has held the top spot, being upgraded and improved for nearly a decade. However in the past few years GE has worked hard to catch up and it’s Vivid E9 has matched the iE33 in nearly every area. The main difference between these two has been workflow and user interface, as both aim to keep existing users brand-loyal with a family look and feel. However, this year Philips has released it’s new Epiq line and aims to replace the long standing leader with a completely reengineered top tier ultrasound system. As kpi gets the Epiq 7 & 5 systems and test them we will post the results here, but the our time with the Epiq 7 so far makes it look like a promising premium ultrasound system. Remember though that early versions of the iE33 were terribly unreliable so the Epiq may not get our full vote till it’s been out a year and it’s inicial issues have been resolved. Till then kpi considers the iE33 and the Vivid E9 as the best cardiac ultrasound machines in the high-end segment. Even if the iE33 is surpassed by the new Epiq 7, you can bet the falling price of late model iE33’s will make them a terrific value, and may still keep them in first place for reasons of price to power value. KPI rates both the Philips iE33 and GE Vivid E9 as top in the “BEST” or top-of-the-line segment. (Updated October 2014)
The Mid-range ultrasound systems are the most commonly used in hospitals and imaging centers. These mid tier systems have less of the top of the line features, while keeping high image quality and a broad set of features thus lowering their purchase price to more affordable levels. Philips has kept an edge in the middle range with the HD11xe and HD15 which were tremendously popular and which just ended production during the summer of 2014. These will continue to be good values as late model refurbished systems for years to come. KPI picked the HD15 which as a used unit costs only a little more than the HD11xe but which costs tens of thousands more new and provides features and image quality nearly at the iE33 level, including the use of the single crystal “Purewave” probes. The GE Vivid 7 has not been updated to as high a level as the HD15, but it’s lower price and solid reliability still make it a strong choice, especially to those who prefer the GE workflow to Philips. The HD15 offers better shared service imaging and features for those who need a unit to perform both cardiac and OB/GYN functions whereas the Vivid 7 follows GE’s more specialized philosophy and cannot provide OB features or probes. If this is a concern, the GE Logiq S8 offers a better match to the HD15. KPI considers both the Philips HD15 and the GE Vivid 7 as currently offering the best power and features for cardiac ultrasound applications in the “BETTER” mid-range segment.
Entry level ultrasound machines emphasize economy to lower costs to doctors on a budget or just starting a private practice. What is surprising is how many features that used to be reserved for high-end machines have filtered down to even premium entry level ultrasound systems. Don’t underestimate lower tier ultrasound machines if they are produced by high quality brands! The GE Logiq P5 is a good example. As a premium economy system the Logiq P5 has options for 4D, elastography and of course CW doppler and ECG. In this form the shared service Logiq P5 provides very good image quality with a wide range of potential applications. The Philips HD7xe from Philips offers similar cardiac image quality but without as broad applications as elastography and 4D are not optional. Both as new systems or 1-4 years old, these two entry level ultrasound systems offer cardiac performance approaching mid-range power. In the collective opinion of the experts at kpi both the GE Logiq P5 with the cardiac option and the Philips HD7xe offer the best price to performance ratio in the”GOOD” entry-level segment.
Portable ultrasound has come a long way from the days when all portable cardiac ultrasound machines (the few there were, like the Acuson Cypress) were entry level. Now there are clearly top-of-the-line, and mid-range as well as economy systems. Portable cardiac ultrasound is not only useful in emergency situations, but mobile scanning, as well as in small offices and for doctors that must travel from clinic to clinic. The most advanced portable cardiac ultrasound system currently on the market is the Philips CX50 which offers GI and 2D OB/GYN applications as well as it’s unique X7-2t 4D TEE probe which is a uniquely high-end option. The GE Vivid-i offers solid mid-level performance and is well known and well respected with 2D TEE and pediatric probe options. The Vivid-i, as is true with all the Vivid line from GE does not support OB/GYN probes or applications but is a cardio vascular specialist with general imaging capabilities. The Samsung Medison MySono U6 is a great value as a 1-3 year old system as it offers imaging quality comparable (and sometime superior) to the more expensive GE Vivid-i, but at a much lower, entry-level costs but without as many probe options as the Vivid-i. The U6 has no TEE or pediatric cardiac options, but does support 4D OB/GYN scanning that makes it the most versatile of these 3 portable cardiac ultrasound systems. KPI recommends all three portables. Choose the one that is best for you depending upon your budget and needs for applications other than cardiac.