Ultrasounds have grown to become a more trusted tool for examination amongst clinicians by providing a clear, safe, fast, and real-time glimpse into the human body without the use of radiation that harms the body. The technology has developed greatly over the past few decades, and still continues to be a low-cost and effective imaging technology. Its flexibility, ease of use, and relatively low cost are among the few features that make it more accessible than ever. The utility of ultrasound extends across the entire continuum of care and has become fundamental to providing affordable care for patients around the world.

The way in which ultrasound systems are marketed and purchased across the world has changed. Increasingly, and especially in developed markets, ultrasound systems are being designed with a specific clinical application in mind. When ultrasound was first introduced as a medical imaging tool in the mid-20th century, healthcare providers used one system for all clinical applications. As the technology advanced, specific ultrasound systems were developed for cardiology and OB/GYN applications. Recently, real-time 3D/4D ultrasound systems are leading the market with a steady growth that can be attributed to their effective functionalities and advanced features. Additionally, today's handheld and miniaturized systems with better image quality and more advanced modes have consistently gained acceptance and have opened up new market niches for the imaging modality. Automation, reproducibility, and portability continue to be trends driving ultrasound systems.

Indian Market Dynamics

The Indian ultrasound systems market in 2016 is estimated at 1212 crore. Trends suggest that the market for color ultrasound systems for the first time showed a decline. The decline could be attributed to the increase in customs duty by 7.3 percent to 18.94 percent
in January 2016, coupled with foreign exchange volatility. The strict implementation of the Prenatal Diagnostic Tests Act, which prevents deliberate abortion of female fetus after determining the gender of the baby, is discouraging purchase. Demonetization also played spoilsport in November and December.

The black-and-white ultrasound systems market is estimated to be steady at about 325 systems, valued at 12 crore for the past couple of years, declining by 1–2 percent every year.

Global Market

The global ultrasound systems market is expected to reach USD 6.86 billion by 2021 at a CAGR of 5.2 percent during 2016 to 2021, predicts MarketsandMarkets. The trolley/cart-based ultrasound systems accounted for the largest share in the market in 2016. The compact handheld ultrasound systems segment is expected to grow at the highest CAGR over the next 5 years, owing to ease of operability and expansion in application horizons (such as radiology imaging, emergency medicine, and wound healing).

Recent advancements in image quality, volumetric ultrasound, and new technologies are expected to have a positive effect on the market. Helping to fuel growth is miniaturization and the adoption of handheld and portable ultrasound systems, which have opened up new market niches for the imaging modality, such as emergency medicine and anesthesiology. Furthermore, the availability of detailed visualization technologies due to advancements in computer technology with real-time processing, improved b-mode technology, and the final data display quality is envisaged to result in the high adoption of ultrasound equipment among end users.

Technology Advancements

Ultrasound's capability has improved with technology advancements that create higher-quality images and are more intuitive to users, and this has driven ultrasound's adoption by new users like nurses, midwives, and general practitioners and new uses like hospital/ambulance, hepatology, emergency medicine, and critical care. Additionally, ultrasound is an affordable and safe imaging technology and the (relatively) small size and portability of the equipment used make it compatible in a variety of care environments.

The ultrasound equipment that used to be the size of a kitchen refrigerator is now the size of a smartphone or tablet, yet does an even better job than it did before. Compact devices continue to help expand the reach of ultrasound to emergency room and primary care settings. There is also potential for intravascular ultrasound to equip physicians with the information they need to determine if additional imaging is needed and develop a diagnosis and treatment plan.

The systems are becoming smarter thanks to software enhancement tools like Toshiba's Aplio Platinum Systems. Eventually, ultrasound systems will not need any configuration. With such developing technology, it becomes possible to clinically apply ultrasound as an initial diagnostic tool for identifying some diseases, which was not the case before.

Ultrasound is already experiencing a renaissance as it continues to prove its value. Ultrasound technologies that integrate with medical IT will be of increasing importance as they help remote providers get immediate access to patient vitals and records as well as connect with specialists, giving them near- or real-time assessments and ultimately, improving patient outcomes. New advances in ultrasound technology have shown great promise in internal medicine applications. Newer applications for ultrasound technology, including shock wave lithotripsy and dental descaling can save lives, decrease healing time, and do a whole lot more than just look inside the body.

The evolution of ultrasound is driven by economic factors, along with physician and imaging company dedication, to improving patient care. No longer is ultrasound centered at the hospital radiology department and strictly performed by sonographers.

Road Ahead

As ultrasound is becoming one of the fundamental aspects of healthcare, an increasing number of private companies and public institutions are investing in research and development of advanced innovative technologies in the field of ultrasound imaging. A lot of new software technology and changes in the way companies are analyzing ultrasound information is being seen.Increase in the number of healthcare providers is expected to have a tremendous impact on the market as the healthcare sectors are set for progress and expansion.

With the continued trend to make ultrasound machines smaller, lighter, and more portable, the manufacturers continue to help expand the reach of ultrasound to the emergency room and primary care settings. The miniaturization of ultrasound devices will allow further development of intravenous ultrasound, with catheters to get smaller and at the same time packing more elements in. Another trend is the development of advanced 3D tools with magnetic sensors and matrix array probes that can allow for volumetric visualization and measurement of vessels without the need to go intravenous, improving the safety of the procedure while reducing time and cost.

The industry has not, however, reached the pinnacle of ultrasound usefulness. Industry insiders foresee continued advancements in ultrasound toward cost-effective solutions that do not compromise high-quality imaging. Accordingly, ultrasound will become even more automated, mobile, definitive, and intuitive for users, making it an indispensable everyday tool for patient diagnosis and care. We are in exciting times that only point to a brighter future with ultrasound, as it could potentially change the way noninvasive surgery and treatments are done.

10 Diagnostic Imaging Trends for 2018



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