Digital Imaging at a Glance

10 June 2010 (Last Updated June 10th, 2010 18:30)

A new report by GlobalData highlights the growth trends in the digital imaging market. It charts the rise and fall of technologies in the new century as demand changes and technology matures.

Digital Imaging at a Glance

Driven by an increased focus on the prevention of chronic diseases, the diagnostic imaging market is gaining importance around the globe. Globally, it was valued at $14.4bn in 2008 and grew at a rate of 4.8% between 2000 and 2008.

X-ray systems were the key market category during this period, with a large presence in the emerging economies of China, India and Brazil. Ultrasound systems, however, have also seen positive growth with increased applications that are expected to push this technology into the lead in the market in terms of volume sales in major geographies.

As technology advances, the diagnostic imaging market is expected overall to exhibit growth of 5.7% between 2008 and 2015. This market will primarily be driven by the ultrasound systems category. Driven by applications for breast and cervical cancer detection and cardiovascular imaging, this category will grow at a rate of 7.3% over the forecast period, to reach a value of $5.2bn in 2015.

Where market growth will be seen

The mammography equipment and nuclear imaging equipment categories experienced below-average market growth rate between 2001 and 2008 – of only 4.1%. This market, however, is expected to see better times ahead with 6.9% growth spurred by the rising incidence of breast cancer, and the evolution of sophisticated nuclear imaging devices.

"The diagnostic imaging market is gaining importance around the globe."

The ultrasound systems category experienced above-average market growth of 4.1% between 2001 and 2008. The high growth in this category was primarily due to usage of this procedure in a majority of the healthcare settings and the relative low cost of these devices.

In the run up to 2015, this market is expected to grow even more – to 6.9% as the systems further diversify and technological advances, such as the portable and handheld units, grow in demand.

X-ray systems and computed tomography both experienced below-average growth between 2001 and 2008. But the markets are mature and have few technological advances, so this is little surprise. Moving ahead, this market is expected to see reduced investment from venture capital firms and a lower level of innovation compared with the other diagnostic imaging categories.

MRI systems, however, experienced above-average market growth between 2001 and 2008 (6.6%). The high growth in these categories was primarily due to the technological advances such as the 3T MRI and the application for a large number of disease conditions. These categories are expected to witness below average market growth rates in the future due to the high cost of the device and the effects of the economic recession on healthcare spending. A fall of 6.1% in growth is expected.

The diagnostic imaging landscape: computed tomography (CT)

GE Healthcare, Siemens Medical Solutions and Philips Medical Systems are the leading companies in the global diagnostic imaging market. Together, they make up 69.0% of the market. In 2007, GE Healthcare led the diagnostic imaging market with a 26.1% share, followed by Siemens Medical Solutions and Philips Medical Systems with 21.7% and 21.2% respectively.

"CT is seen to provide a cheaper and faster procedure for the detection of cardiovascular diseases."

Computed tomography (CT) is one of the biggest areas to keep an eye on. It is being increasingly used in the diagnosis of the majority of disease indications as an alternative to more invasive diagnostic procedures. A small example is its use as an alternative to angiography for the detection of coronary artery disease.

Apart from the obvious benefit of being less invasive, CT is also seen to provide a cheaper and faster procedure for the detection of cardiovascular diseases, which bodes well for the technology moving forward.

There is one blight on CT technology that could, however, have a negative effect. Despite the number of tests being done using this model, there has been concern that the recommendation rates for further testing have also increased. This could indicate a gap in the effectiveness of CT to diagnose disease, and also explain why other technologies, such as MRI and ultrasound, are gaining ground.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A key trend in the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sector is the shift from 1.5T (Tesla) to 3T MRI systems driven by the ability of the 3T MRI to scan smaller anatomies at higher resolutions and faster speeds. 3T provides an imaging solution for all patient types – individuals with larger anatomies and those with claustrophobia, thereby increasing imaging test volume.

Technological advancement, however, has come at a price. There are some inherent drawbacks of using the 3T MRI, such as increased specific absorption rate (SAR) and an increased time for sequencing due to system complexity.

"All sectors within the diagnostic imaging market include technology offerings for the breast cancer diagnostic market."

Despite this, the application of 3T MRI technology for musculoskeletal, neurological, and breast imaging studies will undoubtedly drive sales in future. Hence, benefits and drawbacks aside, MRI device types have their customer base. Smaller hospitals and imaging centres wanting to save time and money will continue to buy the 1.5T device, while the larger hospitals, with more capital to spare and skilled manpower, will prefer using the 3T MRI.

A novel approach has been taken by Philips Medical Systems, whose Achieva XR convertible 1.5T/3T MRI system allows a diagnostic unit to start with the 1.5T device and upgrade to 3T when the staff are accustomed to the system. This reduces installation charges and the learning curve of the technician.

The breast cancer challenge

All sectors within the diagnostic imaging market include technology offerings for the breast cancer diagnostic market. From whole breast ultrasound to breast specific gamma imaging (BSGI) and MRI scanning, companies all want in on breast cancer screening.

Physicians now realise that a lack of specialised diagnostic systems and related software for breast imaging is creating a lag in the imaging process and breast imaging workflow. There is a demand now, as a result, for dedicated and focused systems for breast imaging.

Another emerging trend is the demand for digital support system for storage and analysis of the imaging data.

Breast cancer can be big business, and one all of these industry areas will want to benefit from. Countries around the world are showing an increased take-up of devices purely for scanning for cancers.

Our full report, "Global Diagnostic Imaging Market Analysis & Forecasts to 2015", by our sister analyst firm Global Data, can be found at www.globaldata.com. It goes into further detail about the digital imaging market for individual countries around the world.