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The Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) is the world’s largest radiology conference. It has taken place in Chicago for decades and, for many medical specialties, is the main event for learning about the latest trends and methods in imaging and treatment. The first meeting was held in a Chicago Hotel in late 1915. Whereas initially the focus was on professional exchange between members, in the mid-1930s individual companies began presenting their products at RSNA. Among them was Siemens’ medical engineering division, which began exhibiting its innovations in the field of imaging in 1936.
In honor of this year’s RSNA, we’ve compiled an illustrated history documenting Siemens presence at this important event.
In 1953, Siemens established a technical service office for medical engineering equipment in the U.S. Up until 1957, sales were conducted through Westinghouse. Up to that year, Siemens products were presented in the Westinghouse exhibition area.
Beginning in 1957, what would come to be known as “Siemens Medical of America”, organized its first product presentations at RSNA. An internal report on the “X-ray Conference” in Chicago, dated 1965, relates that RSNA was “as lively as ever and this year visited by over 2,500 radiologists.” In keeping with the interests and requirements of American customers, the exhibits mainly focused on special devices such as the Sireskop X-ray machine, the Gigantos three-phase generator, and the Ampex X-ray image processing device. In 1966, the Siemens booth occupied 30 square meters.
Interest in RSNA continued to grow throughout the 1970s. By 1975 the number of exhibitors had risen to 211 companies and the event drew 10,000 visitors. Initially RSNA was held at McCormick Place in Chicago in an exhibition space that had grown to 13,000 square meters. In addition to radiologists, interest on the part of universities and researchers was also growing. The potential applications for x-ray technology that were presented were also becoming increasingly diverse, and their growing importance was confirmed by the fact that interventional radiology now became part of RSNA.
The highlight of RSNA 1975 was computed tomography (CT). Siemens had introduced the first CT images of a head in 1974, and in 1975 the Siretom CT head scanner was presented to an international audience. In 1976 followed the Somatom, the first whole-body CT scanner from Siemens. On 325 square meters of exhibition space, Siemens also exhibited various x-ray diagnostic and therapy devices, as well as the Vidoson ultrasound scanner.
During the 70s and 80s, RSNA, which now included an extensive scientific program, repeatedly changed locations. Members of the Radiological Society of North America met not only in Chicago, but also in Dallas, Washington D.C., and Atlanta. From 1985 until today, however, the organizers have remained faithful to Chicago.
Over the years, radiological systems continued to evolve. A growing number of new imaging procedures were introduced at RSNA – and established on the market. Among these was magnetic resonance (MRI) or “nuclear spin” tomography, a diagnostic method that produced high-resolution images of the human body without using x-rays. In 1982, Siemens presented its first magnetic resonance imaging scanner under the name of Magnetom with superconducting magnets in two different field strengths.
In the mid-1980s, the Siemens booth became more spacious and open. On an exhibition space totaling 1,000 square meters, the company presented its extensive product range to a growing number of international industry professionals. Outside RSNA, physicians and hospital operators worldwide had few opportunities to make direct comparisons between the products and systems of different suppliers. Moreover, the personal exchanges between experts and colleagues from around the world were assuming increasing significance.
Over 50,000 people visited the conference in 1990, half of which were employees of the now over 500 exhibiting companies. The capacity of the McCormick Center was exhausted and many scientific events took place off-site. Siemens’ product portfolio was larger than ever, ranging from computed tomography systems and nuclear medicine devices to ultrasound and dental equipment.
In the 1990s, the significance of IT systems for medical engineering continued to grow. Initially, the main focus was on the storage of image data. 1992 saw the introduction of the DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) standard. In an updated form, this standard is still important today for the storage and exchange of information in medical image data management. The comprehensive information available for each patient is vital for targeted treatment and is managed using the latest information technology. Siemens offers various IT and software solutions for this purpose.
In an effort to draw more attention from RSNA participants, Siemens appearances have sported catchy trade fair slogans from 2000 on. The first was the “Best Practice Integration” campaign, followed by the famous campaign “Proven Outcomes” in 2002 in which customers told how they benefitted from their use of new Siemens technologies. Due to its tremendous success, this campaign continued for several years.
In 2005, Siemens medical engineering once again set the trend at RSNA in Chicago by introducing the new Somatom Definition computed tomography system. This device uses two x-ray sources simultaneously (dual-source) to produce images of amazing quality. In addition, the exhibition focused on IT solutions and insights into molecular medicine. The following year, systems and products for laboratory diagnostics were also added to the portfolio as a part of a restructuring of Siemens’ medical engineering business.
Over 60,000 international guests attended RSNA in 2010. Under the motto “Images, my way,” they had the chance to learn about the latest innovations in imaging at the Siemens booth. The major highlight of the presentation by the Healthcare Sector was the new Biograph mMR system, the world’s first integrated molecular whole-body MRI system with simultaneous imaging technology, which opened up whole new fields of application for many medical disciplines. The subject of reducing radiation exposure during X-ray scans was also becoming increasingly important; Siemens responded successfully to this with its “Low Dose” campaign.
Siemens was also a part of the 100th meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, in 2014, where the company presented its new products, including the Magnetom Amira MRI system. The RSNA organizers arranged a special exhibition featuring various historical medical technology devices to mark the anniversary year. Siemens was represented at the show by its Vidoson 635 S ultrasound system. Developed in the 1960s, the device was launched on the German market in 1967.
Bianca Braun / Christoph Frank