Practicality, ease of use, safety, and shorter exam time of 3-D & 4-D ultrasound technologies have given ultrasound a new life and increased its relevance in medical imaging.

Ultrasound is more accessible today than ever before with portable solutions that streamline diagnostic processes and improve the quality of care for patients. It is now seeing wider adoption by a variety of providers who may not traditionally have used ultrasound, including nurses, midwives, and emergency medicine and critical care professionals.

There really has been a proliferation of advancements over the last few years. The creation of handheld ultrasound devices and the adaptation of 3-D and 4-D ultrasound system capabilities highlights this. Also, image quality has vastly improved due to technological advances in transducer sensitivity. Previously, machines were only able to capture a single image, but now they are able to capture images through multiple planes simultaneously allowing for a more complete picture. The latest advances in FPGA and microprocessor technology have allowed the larger ultrasound systems on a rolling cart, to shrink down to mere ones and zeros in the form of software apps.

Indian Market Dynamics

 The Indian ultrasound systems market in 2016 is estimated at Rs. 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 fetuses 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 Rs. 12 crore since the past couple of years, declining by 1–2 percent every year.

Global Market

The global ultrasound devices market valued at Rs. 38,500 crore in 2015 is projected to reach  Rs. 70,200 crore by 2022. Major factors boosting the market growth include technological advancements (such as advent of 3-D and 4-D ultrasound that provides detailed information about a known abnormality from different angles), rising incidences of chronic diseases, and increasing geriatric population worldwide. The rising number of application areas of ultrasound coupled with increasing adoption of ultrasound systems in obstetrics and gynecology field is set to boost the growth of the ultrasound market worldwide.

The trolley/cart-based ultrasound devices accounted for the largest share in 2015, whereas the compact/handheld ultrasound devices segment is the fastest growing segment with a CAGR of 7.4 percent. Although the compact/handheld ultrasound equipment segment is expected to grow at a high CAGR due to increased adoption of portable ultrasound devices for point-of-care (POC) applications, it cannot outpace the trolley/cart based ultrasound equipments as they offer more accurate diagnostic capabilities and high performance.

Asia-Pacific is expected to be the market with the most potential for the period 2015–2019, whereas Africa is estimated to be one of the slowest growing regions and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 5.1 percent from 2015 to 2019. North America's diagnostic industry traditionally relies greatly on CT and MRI modalities and is ranked slightly behind Europe's in terms of global revenue generation.

Technological Advancements

The past decade has witnessed significant developments in ultrasound technologies ranging from portable devices, wireless transducers to 3-D/4-D ultrasound imaging, and artificial intelligence. Researchers and scientists are endeavoring to develop technologies that simplify diagnostic procedures, improve efficiency of clinicians, and enhance image quality. In addition, manufacturers are emphasizing on implementing automation in premium-tier systems, portable devices, and POC solutions. The prime focus of vendors will be on offering cost-effective devices with growing innovation and competition in the global industry.

The concerns regarding overexposure to radiation by conventional systems and other devices, including MRI or CT, have enabled manufacturers to concentrate their efforts on developing less radiation. The trend of using smart fusion technologies, that is, acquiring images using a combination of ultrasound and MRI for interventional and therapeutic applications is also gaining momentum.

3-D/4-D ultrasound technologies. Availability of better visualization owing to advancements in 3-D and 4-D ultrasound technologies has helped gynecologists to determine congenital birth defects. The golden-colored images offered by 3-D/4-D ultrasound aid in detecting defects distinctly as compared to gray-colored images delivered by 2-D ultrasound systems. In addition, cardiologists benefit from these technologies due to availability of real-time data and quantitative diagnostic information.

Different tools are available in 3-D technologies, such as multi-planar display, which helps in rendering orthogonal views for fetal brain and cavities. The examination of the moving heart and obtaining dynamic multi-planar views of the heart is possible with the help of spatial temporal image correlation (STIC) technique, which uses 4-D ultrasound. Benefits of 3-D and 4-D ultrasound technologies, such as practical, easy-to-use, safe, and shorter exam time give ultrasound a new life and increased relevance in medical imaging.

AIUS. Clinicians face issues in reproduction of images in echocardiography as results vary based on the sonographer's experience and techniques used. This issue was addressed by Philips Healthcare with the introduction of artificial intelligence software, anatomically intelligent ultrasound (AIUS). The software collects image volume data with the help of 3-D echo, and an optimal version of diagnostic views is created. AIUS also helps in saving time by obtaining dimensions three to six times faster as compared to manual methods. Advances in artificial intelligence technology help clinicians in workflow enhancement.

Outlook

The most significant changes to hit the ultrasound industry in recent years include increased system computation power, workflow automation, improved quality, reduced system cost and greater system portability, and the rise of networking capabilities. These fundamental changes will influence the future of the ultrasound industry.

The market will see faster advancements in software and hardware that will make ultrasound smarter, less dependent on the user, and more clinically relevant. The manufacturers will remain focused on cost-effective solutions that do not compromise high-quality imaging. It is expected that ultrasound will become even more automated, definitive, and intuitive for users, making it an indispensable, everyday tool for patient care.


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