Looking to Upgrade the Software in Your GE MRI Machine?
Then this is the place to start.
Whether you’re facing an end-of-life dilemma for your 9x or 11x MRI systems or your facility is seeking to advance the kinds of scans made available to your patient base, it may be time to upgrade the software and, subsequently, increase the coil channels in your GE MRI machines. But how do you know what you’re getting in terms of applications and options for each upgrade?
Same Magnet, New Capabilities
The heart of your scanner is the magnet – most likely the industry standard LCC CXK4 magnet. The core function of the magnet – to create a strong magnetic field – remains constant (as does the zero boil-off cooling system) no matter the electronics and coil channels surrounding it.
The GE continuum is unique from any other OEM because this platform allows you to add additional technologies and capabilities to your MRI system by upgrading the software, without having to replace the magnet or go through the costly hassle of a new installation of a machine. This reduces your downtime (from a 30-day rig out to just a 5-day upgrade with new applications training for your team) and saves your budget from construction costs like removing a wall or window and having to replace your RF shield (why spend half a million when you can get the advancements your facility needs for $250,000?).
So, when we talk about investing in an upgrade, what we’re really talking about is a cost-effective, time-saving way to advance the capabilities of your MRI machine.
To do this, you’ve probably been scouring the GE Buyer’s Guides and educational materials for a simple, cohesive comparison between the software and coil channels. As you may have already discovered, a comprehensive guide of this nature has been lacking in the industry. SwMR is here to fix that.
9x – 4-Channel Coils
The 9x was really the start of the GE continuum (following the 5X that was discontinued in the late 90’s) and it remains the most widely-sold MRI platform ever. There are still plenty of 9x systems on the market and the LCC magnet itself still has a huge install base. A lot of the customers that have the 9x are looking for an upgrade, especially since the 9x and 11x were given and end of life sentence by GE this year (2019).
9x Electronic Capabilities:
9x system has great upgradeability and it is a very durable system. The problem with the 9x is there are so many variations and the equipment has changed so much through the platform that you aren’t always sure what type of gradient or RF you have – it could be analog or digital (better image quality when you make this switch) on the 9x platform. Everything above 9x uses a digital RF, but this older system may still rely on an analog interface.
There’s also several different slew rates depending on which gradient you have. The slew rate is the measurement on how the gradients are performing, it measures the speed rate of descent or ascent of a gradient. The higher the gradient, the more accurate the spatial data becomes and the better chance you have of getting a high-definition image. Think of it like the difference between a 720p and 1080p television set – the 9x is closer to a lower resolution 720p while 16x and 23x systems are more akin to the highest resolution 1080p HDTVs.
9x Option Applications:
The 9x system comes with the following options:
4-channel coils provide the basic receiver pathway in your MRI system. As you increase channels, you shorten acquisition time and deliver better image quality.
The 9x is a great base for upgrading. It was the pinnacle of evolution at the time of its creation and the starting point of the GE continuum. However, with the older electronics come less capabilities. You could also have a 9x system with very old gradients, but once you move past the 9x platform, all upgrades have the highest-quality gradients.
11x – 8-Channel Coils
With a need for more dynamic applications in vascular, body and cardiac imaging, the 11x system was introduced to the GE Continuum. This technology not only provides a higher-resolution image, especially for neurologic and orthopedic applications, but they also provide the image processing horsepower to handle increased data. With the 11x, you can integrate the more advanced applications into your routine clinical practice.
11x Electronic Capabilities:
11x systems are all digital RF and all SGA gradient. This improved gradient package offers a huge increase in image quality. 11x also introduced us to the first version of ASSET parallel imaging technology, which cut the scan times in half and decreased patient exam times.
With the 11x system you also get access to Accelerator Data Management technology, providing a high-volume image database for faster workflow.
11x Option Applications:
With the 11x system you get breakthrough imaging options that enhance your diagnostics for stroke evaluation, peripheral vascular imaging, and breast cancer staging among other clinical applications.
Introduction of Propeller Technology
The 11x system introduced us to the revolutionary image data collection method that acquires data in radial “blades” rotating in sequence until the image acquisition is complete.
Propeller technology produces high-resolution image through a 25-75% improvement in contrast-to-noise ratio (without time penalty), reduced sensitivity to patient motion, and reduced sensitivity to magnetic susceptibility artifacts or other abnormalities disturbing the magnetic field.
The 11x system comes with the following additional options (including all of the options of the previous 9x system):
Fat Water 2001
3D Delayed Enhancements
3D Fat Sat Fiesta
8-channel coils provide a visible improvement in image quality especially in the areas of neurovascular, spine, body and cardiac imaging. 8-channel coils also improve the speed of acquisition. These coils can be optimized for parallel imaging techniques (like ASSET), improved SNR (signal to noise ratio), and overall better image resolution.
Conclusion: With the 9x system, some of the parts have aged out and are not reliable anymore (analog RF, for instance). On the 11x platform, however, you get more reliability because this is when things like gradients and digital RF started standardizing and becoming easily transferable to future systems. The parts for these systems are still being produced (or are purchasable from a provider like SWMR if you have an end of life machine) and remain a reliable system for quality imaging services.
12x – 8-Channel HD Coils
The 12x system allows for high-definition imaging that allows you to overcome challenge diagnostics that are hard to examine using conventional MRI technology.
12x Electronic Capabilities:
12x introduced us to the HFA gradient amplifier, which increases the energy of the signal before it reaches the coils and helps to achieve better image quality.
12x Option Applications:
One of the top benefits of upgrading to a 12x system, in terms of options, is the Lava sequence for liver scans, which allows you to get multiple types of scans at the same time using slice coverage. You can now get different T1 and T2 images on the same scan, along with enhanced image contrast and uniform fat suppression.
The 12x system comes with the following additional options (including all of the options of the previous systems):
3T Restricted Apps
2D Fat Sat Fiesta
8 Channel System
16 Channel System
8-Channel HD Coils:
The 12x system, like the 11x, uses 8-channel coils. However, with the 12x you have the option of using HD coils, in which the preamplifier is built into the coil so the signal is amplified right at the coil and increases SNR.
The 12x system is ideal if your facility serves patients that make it difficult to get accurate scans, such as children, the elderly, obese patients, etc. The HD coils, HFA gradient amplifier, and options like Lava help ease your patient exams without sacrificing reliable, quality imaging.
Making the Jump to 16 or 32-Channel Coils: Moving vs. Non-Moving Anatomy
Aside from computer processing speeds, the primary difference between software systems comes down to the higher vs. lower channel coils. 9, 11, and 12x systems are perfectly fine for capturing non-moving anatomy – the shoulders, knees, and hips, for example – but once you start getting into moving anatomy – the heart and lungs – or conducting MR spectroscopy, higher channel coils are needed.
If your facility offers neurology, cardiology or pulmonology services, where there is actual movement from brain waves or heartbeat or breathing, having that 16- or 32-channel coil helps you capture the image in a faster period of time, resulting in a crisp, clean scan for your radiologists to read.
14-16x – 16-Channel Coils
The 14x, 15x, and 16x all made the jump to 16-channel, high-density coils. These systems offer data acceleration technology, high-definition applications optimized for every anatomical area, from neural to body to breast imaging, with enhanced contrast, clarity, and accuracy.
14-16x Electronic Capabilities:
The 14-16x systems saw a huge difference in the image reconstruction (VRE). Because you are getting so much data from the additional channels, there needs to be a lot more processing of that data. With the 16x you are able to reconstruct the images much faster due to faster computer processing speeds. Comes with built-in automation for the calibrations and diagnostics, which makes it a lot easier for serviceability.
14-16x Option Applications:
These systems introduced specialty option packages – cardio, neuro, ortho – that are specific to the anatomy you are scanning.
The 16x system also comes with the following additional options (including all of the options of the previous systems):
16-channel coils offer increased transmit performance and higher SNR, while significantly improving reduction factors for parallel imaging. Also, with 16-channel coils you have access to anatomy-adaptive coil design that provides efficient positioning workflow with the potential for higher resolution results, lower SAR and elimination of image backfolding.
What was made possible in the 12x is made consistent in the 14-16x systems. Particularly in the 16x, you can have consistent high-quality imaging with applications designed for optimal fat suppression, tissue characterization, and artifact reduction in every scan.
23x – 32-Channel Coils
23x Electronic Capabilities:
The 23x completely rebuilt the user interface, causing quite a learning curve for some technicians. But, in the long run, it’s a lot better for serviceability. On the applications side, it automated a lot of features and put everything on one, 24-inch screen, offering:
• Site protocols easily saved, filtered, archived, and shared.
• Automatically prescribed image processing
• Automatic launch of processing immediately after acquisition
• Toggle visibility of secondary parameters for new or experienced users
The image reconstruction VRE system also has different image computer notes (ICN) with different variations, going from the 4100 (15/16x) to now the 4170 that run on the 23x (also backwards compatible to the 15x and 16x). On the 23x, GE upgraded the speed and capability of the hardware that does the actual reconstruction.
23x Option Applications:
The 23x system also comes with the following additional options (including all of the options of the previous systems):
The 23x is compatible with both 16-channel and 32-channel coils, built for fast high-resolution and advanced neuro imaging. With 32-channel coils you get high SNR for optimal image quality, as well as parallel imaging capabilities that are especially useful for fMRI scans.
The 23x is the most advanced system you can get, providing the highest resolution scans and the best diagnostic imaging for your patients.
Which Upgrade is Right for You?
Remember the propeller technology introduced with the 11x system? This is a good example of what is gained as you advance in the channel coils and computer processing speeds. In the 11x, the propeller technology worked – and that was revolutionary for the time. With the 16x, the propeller technology became much more useful, and in the 23x, Propeller 3.0 technology is near perfect in its speed, accuracy, and image quality.
Each evolution in the software isn’t reinventing the wheel – it is advancing your capabilities through increased computing power/speed and the power of higher channel coils.
With the GE Continuum, you have the upgradeability that enables you to advance the capability of your system with new surface coils, new software applications, or even new system platforms without replacing the magnet.
Remember, scalability is on your side. Whether you are looking to move from 4-channel to 8-channel HD coils or your facility does enough moving anatomy scans to warrant a jump to a 16x or 23x system, upgrading your system doesn’t need to be a million dollar investment.
Want an Expert Opinion?
SwMR provides the system type, options and/or coils that are required to produce the diagnostic imaging results required by your facility. Connect with our sales and rental department to help you decide which upgrade is best for you.