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St. Jude launches joint cardiac ultrasound system with Zonare

Two months after announcing a development agreement with an up-and-coming ultrasound technology company, St. Jude Medical has launched a faster, more portable intracardiac ultrasound system designed for taking images inside the heart. The ViewMate Z combines St. Jude’s intracardiac echocardiography (ICE) catheter with California-based Zonare’s top-rated z.one Convertible Ultrasound system.

In 2009, St. Jude’s atrial fibrillation division revenue, which includes such cardiac imaging technologies, was $628 million, up 17 percent from 2008, according to its 2009 annual report. A spokesperson declined to answer what impact the ViewMate Z is expected to have on St. Jude’s revenues. But picking Zonare as a partner seems to be a bet for growth.

The worldwide medical ultrasound equipment market is expected to reach $4.7 billion by 2012, according to market research firm Marketstrat, and Zonare, founded in 1999 in Mountain View, Calif., has become a significant player in a relatively short time. Zonare has sold more than 4,000 z.one systems worldwide since introducing it in 2005. It was ranked first in market share (27 percent) over Philips and GE Healthcare for the peripheral vascular ultrasound market in 2008, and is one of the fastest growing companies in Silicon Valley. Portability, image quality and price have given the company a 100 percent “would buy again” rating in a recent industry survey, according to its site.

The ultrasound images captured by the ViewMate Z device will help guide physicians in performing a variety of procedures such as radiofrequency (RF) ablation to treat irregular heart rhythms and in closing defects such as patent foramen ovale (PFO), a small hole or opening in the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart (the atria). Clear views inside the heart also help reduce the time that it takes physicians to perform such procedures.

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