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Finding the best cardiacultrasound machine

Cardiology is an extremely demanding medical specialty and it is not surprising that it is one of the most competitive categories for manufacturers of diagnostic ultrasound systems.

KPI has been the largest distributor of cardiac ultrasound machines for many years. It has built a technical and applications team to evaluate, test, compare, review, and recommend ultrasound systems. These recommendations are based upon the features, reliability, image, quality, and prices our customers seek.

The purpose of this buyers guide is to help medical professionals quickly determine the cardiac ultrasound machines with the best value or price to performance ratio. Which cardiac system is best for you depends upon your needs and your budget. KPI has divided the available systems into five price categories. These are:

Cardiac ultrasound machine categories

Premium

The most advanced, top of the line systems, but also the most expensive.

Hight-end

Most, but not all of the features of the premium segment at a lower cost.

Midrange

The most commonly purchased systems with some premium features.

Economy

Basic systems with less advanced technology but at the lowest price.

Portable

Range from High-end to Economy, but less expensive than consoles.

The best premium cardiac ultrasound systems

Recommended systems: Philips iE33, Philips Epiq 7, GE Vivid E9

Premium cardiac ultrasound machines are meant to showcase the latest technologies and provide the absolute best image quality for even difficult patients along with the full spectrum of every available function. Medical professionals who require the very best where price is not an obstacles will want to choose machines in this 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, last year Philips released it’s new Epiq 7 and aims to replace the class leading iE33 with a completely reengineered top tier ultrasound system. The Epiq 7 lives up to expectations and though it has had a few technical problems (all new products do) Philips has quickly corrected these. Kpi recommends the Philips Epiq 7, iE33 and the GE Vivid E9 as the best cardiac ultrasound machines in the premium segment. Even though the iE33 is surpassed by the new Epiq 7, the falling price of late model iE33’s make them a terrific value. The Epiq  offers greater power and image quality, but the iE33 offers a better price to power ratio if you don’t need the absolute latest technologies.  The GE Vivid E9 offers less matrix and single crystal probe options than the Epiq or iE33 but if you are more familiar with the GE workflow then the Vivid E9 will offer similar performance and features.

The best high-end cardiac ultrasound systems

Recommended systems: Philips EPIQ 5, Philips Affiniti 70 and Philips HD15

The high end cardiac ultrasound category offers similar performance to the premium segment, but with a few top of the line features missing in order to lower the price. Philips dominates this in-between segment with the similar Epiq 5 and Affiniti 70 as well as the older generation HD15 that now provides a greater value as a less expensive refurbished unit. The Epiq 5 is the replacement for the extremely popular Philips iU22 while the Affiniti 70 is the replacement for the popular HD15. The Affiniti 70 actually offers more probes than the more expensive Epiq 5, but the Epiq 5 uses the more powerful nSight beamforming and a larger Hard Drive. The Epiq 5 only differs from the premium Epiq 7 in the use of Strain Elastography, and the lack of xMatrix probes of the 4D TEE functionality. The HD15 will still continue to offer a great value for Doctors who want the imaging quality of single crystal probes. The Affiniti 70 offers a bigger screen, faster processing, better touchscreen and more probe options than the HD15, but the value of the HD15 is it offers similar image quality to the newer units, but at a lower price.

The best midrange cardiac ultrasound systems

Recommended systems: Philips Affinity 50, HD11xe, GE Vivid S6 & Siemens X300 premium

Cardiac ultrasound machines in the mid-range segment are meant to evenly balance price with performance for medical professionals that need to do a large volume of basic exams with the option for a few high-end functions. Philips and Siemens create a single product line to reach all applications while GE breaks into 3 product lines; the Logiq line is meant to reach all applications, while the Voluson line is specialized for 4D OB/GI and the Vivid lineup is targeted specifically at Cardiologists. The most powerful ultrasound machine in this segment is the Affiniti 50, which replaces the HD11xe. The Philips HD11xe has been the long-time leader in this category because it offers one of the widest ranges of probes for any application and type of patient, is very reliable, and offered Good to Excellent image quality. Likewise the newer GE Vivid S6 replaces the older but very popular GE Vivid 7. The Vivid S6 is much smaller, and lighter than the Vivid 7, but retains most of the Vivid 7’s feature sets and image quality. The HD11xe has similarly advanced cardiac imaging but also has a broader appeal as a shared service unit with more probes and calculations options. The Siemens X300 premium lacks the price value or image quality of the previous three ultrasound systems but is recommended for a doctor needing high-level ICE functionality in the midrange category.

The best economy cardiac ultrasound machines

Recommended systems: GE Vivid S5

Economy Cardiac ultrasound machines are meant to do only basic cardiac scans at the lowest price possible. CW Doppler and a single cardiac sector probe are common in this category. Basic cardiac measurements with few quantifications are standard. There are many ultrasound systems in the economy category, but kpi currently only recommends one as providing acceptable image quality and the ability to do all basic functions. The GE Vivid S5, like the more expensive Vivid S6 uses the same probes as the GE Vivid-I and as such offers a larger variety of probes than any other cardiac ultrasound machine in this segment. The Vivid S5 differs from the S6 in that it lacks the single crystal M4S-RS probe, automated ejection-fraction calculations, AFI, CTO, the 17” monitor, and the 10 minute back up power battery. It however retains the excellent 6Tc-RS transesophageal probe. A TEE probe option is unique in the economy cardiac ultrasound segment. Other economy ultrasound machines that are acceptable ,but do not offer the full spectrum of probes include the Philips ClearVue 550. The GE Logiq P6 & P5 premium have a few more probe options than the ClearVue 550 but are not as optimized for Cardiac work as either it or the Vivid S5. These units are better for occasional or very basic cardiac exams.

The best portable cardiac ultrasound systems

Recommended systems: Philips CX50, GE Vivid-q, Vivid-i

Portable cardiac ultrasound machines range in price and features from high-end to the economy segment and are meant for emergency medicine, surgery, point-of-care, and multi-location usage. However as the power of portables now is very close to console units of the same segment, many medical professionals are choosing them over consoles because they are easy move around, secure, and send out for service. Philips and GE both offer great choices for portable ultrasound machines that are cardiac focused, but since the end of production of the CX30, Philips has no good portable in the economy cardiac segment while GE has several. Philips still has the most advanced cardiac portable, but if you are on a budget then GE has more options available for you. The Philips CX50 has since it’s launch been the most advanced portable ultrasound machine in the world with both single crystal probes and a 4D TEE probe. The CX50 offers Excellent image quality and deep quantification tools for all applications, not just cardiac, making it a true shared service option. The GE Vivid-q is a higher-powered version of the Vivid-I offering the single crystal M4S-RS probe and a more feature rich quantification package. Doctors needing the quantification package or clearer imaging should choose the Vivid-q. The Vivid-i is probably the most popular portable cardiac ultrasound machine in existence because of it’s blend of power, reliability and price and it’s focus on cardiovascular applications. Don’t forget that the Vivid-i offers a TEE probe option, a rarity in this price segment.

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