With the number of applications of MRI increasing, this segment is set to play a leading role in diagnostic imaging.
Development of MRI technology has undoubtedly exceeded expectations in the last decade, boosted by advances in high-field magnet technology, computer processing power, and analogue-digital signal processing. They have even managed to develop a quiet system. This technology has gained impetus from the keen interest shown in it by technology developers and manufacturers that wish to make it more patient friendly.
Advances have led to MRI systems becoming increasingly affordable, with both large bore 1.5T and higher resolution 3.0T platforms now a common sight in medical imaging suites around the world. Beyond these routine imaging systems, there is a growing trend towards the use of high field MRI technologies for scientific research. This exciting approach has the potential to further our understanding of a wide range of biological processes and diseases, providing real-time in vivo imaging to elucidate changes at the cellular level.
Indian Market Dynamics
The Indian MRI market in 2014 is estimated at Rs.1200 crore, with sales at 310 units. The 1.5T systems continue to dominate the segment, with the discerning customer opting for 3T systems.
The three brands, GE, Philips, and Siemens, have a combined market share of above 90 percent of the market. Other aggressive brands are Toshiba and Hitachi.
Major customers in 2014 included Suchitra Hospital; Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), Kochi, which procured the silent scan technology system; Dr Balabhai Nanavati Hospital, which installed a 3 T MRI scanner, for scores of patients scared of undergoing MRI due to claustrophobia; Mahajan Imaging, which installed a silent MRI system; and a new MRI center was inaugurated at AIIMS, Rishikesh. Other buyers included Global Hospitals, Sriramakrishna Hospital, Coimbatore; Fortis and Apollo Groups; PGI Chandigarh; and Tamil Nadu Medical Services.
Manufacturers are moving toward several new applications to make MRI more clinically comprehensive. Efficiency is increased by making technology faster. The 3T MRI machines have a magnetic field twice the strength of the industry standard 1.5T MRI, providing faster scans and higher definition images. 3T machines can produce images in as little as 15 minutes, half the time of the 1.5T. With body imaging, shorter breath-holds produce sharper images because the patient moves less.
Silent scans, albeit expensive, are providing improved image quality with reduced acoustic noise. Silent MRI systems use high-fidelity gradient and ultra-fast RF system electronics to eliminate the sound at source.
Advanced imaging applications for different anatomies are gaining popularity. Novel ways are being explored to use the equipment in areas such as abdominal imaging, cardiac imaging, and cancer diagnoses. The 3T is better for certain types of exams, such as those for neurology, vascular, and orthopedics, because it provides a sharper image. A suite of innovative applications or techniques have enabled imaging vasculature anywhere in the body without injecting contrast. Suites with new coil technology for pediatric imaging have customized design, specifically for imaging head, neck, spine, and body of infants and older children. MRI systems that provide better visualization of micro-trauma, a clearer picture of nervous system diseases, and exceptional details of small joints, such as the ankle or wrist are gaining traction. Technicians can now see small vessels in the brain and better differentiate brain tissue following a stroke. This has fostered better diagnosis and more effective treatment planning.
Multimodailty Is the Major Driving Force
MRI equipment manufacturers are investigating opportunities to expand clinical applications to reduce the need for costly invasive procedures for each modality. The introduction of multimodality system enables researchers to use various anatomical and molecular scanning technologies - including MRI, SPECT, PET, optical, and CT scanning - in conjunction with each other to obtain different results simultaneously. The combination of high-resolution PET or SPECT with high-performance cryogen-free MRI instrumentation provides significant benefits for both academia and industry.
Advancements in technology have made MRI a more appropriate modality for use in staging early cancers. Potential benefit of integrated PET-MRI has also been demonstrated for cardiac and brain imaging, where MRI is the predominant modality. MRI applications have also stretched beyond neurosciences and cardiology to include liver and prostate imaging as a means to reduce needle-biopsy procedures. MRI sequences that offer high temporal and spatial resolution with 4D coverage for multi-arterial imaging and applications that deliver contrast-enhanced exams, while eliminating motion artifacts, have allowed body and liver imaging and accurate diagnosis.
MRI systems have developed into the workhorse of high-quality diagnostic imaging and the applications of MRI have widened significantly toward functional imaging and real-time treatment monitoring for minimal invasive procedures, using the unique contrast features of the method.
MRI is expanding to different areas of medicine and as the advantages of technology continue to be realized, manufacturers and physicians can expect the market to grow around the world.
Indian Market Dynamics is based on market research conducted by Medical Buyer in March 2015