Ultrasound is becoming more and more important in the medical world as it is rapid, effective, portable, and relatively inexpensive initial diagnostic imaging technology.

Rapid advances in radiology that have occurred in the past few decades have paved the way for expansion of the medical imaging equipment market. Imaging devices such as ultrasound have allowed further options for treatment guidance with low morbidity. This has helped physicians to assess patients without surgical intervention and thereby improve the patient outcomes and quality of life.

Indian Market Dynamics

In 2014, Indian ultrasound equipment market is estimated at Rs.913 crore. As in all other segments, the buyer is becoming more discerning and opting for high-end premium products, be it in metros and tier I cities, or in tier II and tier III cities. Value wise, the premium and high-end systems have a combined market share of 37 percent and the mid-end 34 percent.

In volume terms, the market in 2014 is estimated at 6600 units. The premium and high-end models have a combined market share of 61 percent. The market for ultrasound equipment has been growing steadily and is expected to continue growing for years to come. The two largest segments of the overall ultrasound equipment market in 2014 were cardiology and radiology. Radiology was the first area to use ultrasound equipment intensively. Due to the large number of important applications, cardiology has also become a traditional setting for the use of ultrasound devices. These respective segments each accounted for over 25 percent of the overall global market. Cardiology and radiology are highly saturated segments of the ultrasound equipment market. However, due to advances in 3D and 4D imaging, as well as elastography and combined MRI/ultrasound imaging techniques, growth rates in these markets are expected to remain in the mid-single digits until at least 2020.

Point-of-care (POC) applications represented the fastest growing segment of the ultrasound equipment market in 2014, and will continue to outstrip other segments over the next decade. The use of ultrasound has spread to new point-of-care applications such as cardiology, breast health, surgery, and urology. This is in part due to a decrease in size and an associated increase in mobility, making it suitable for real-time 3-D imaging in interventional procedures, and as an aid during surgery.

Market Trends

Growth in point-of-care applications, workhorse solutions, and cost-efficiency dominate trends in the ultrasound market. However, premium systems still have a key place in the market. Over the past three years, the ultrasound market has become increasingly segmented. More than 20 distinct clinical applications now exist in the market and new technology developments are clearly focused on individual applications.

Portable and handheld ultrasound units are changing and expanding the diagnostic ultrasound market by serving existing clinical markets more efficiently. They are also creating new point-of-care applications for which ultrasound had been either too cumbersome or too expensive to be used earlier. Emergence of such systems would develop opportunity for the global portable medical ultrasound equipment market, which is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.74 percent during the forecast period. A key trend in the last three years has been the migration of advanced ultrasound features down to lower price brackets. Numerous other trends in diagnosis and treatment are propelling an upward surge of ultrasound technology. Examples include elastography and contrast-enhanced ultrasound. However, increasing adoption of refurbished imaging systems could pose a challenge for the global medical ultrasound equipment market.

Growth Drivers

Factors such as development of technologically advanced ultrasound devices; rising incidences of cardiovascular diseases and cancer cases; growing demand for minimally invasive treatment procedures; and increasing public-private funds and grants are driving the growth of the global ultrasound market. However, factors such as technological limitations of ultrasound, dearth of skilled and experienced sonographers, and unfavorable healthcare reforms have been hampering the growth of ultrasound equipment market.

Technology Trends

Ultrasound equipment has gotten physically smaller, generates less heat, and has become more power efficient. These upgrades, along with vast enhancements in image quality, have pushed ultrasound into the point-of-care setting. Point-of-care ultrasound has become widely performed in emergency rooms, PCP offices and obstetric practices. Technologies such as elastography, matrix transducers, and fusion technology remain firmly in the premium category and have the ability to significantly improve clinical outcomes.

Elastography. It has emerged as a useful adjunct tool for ultrasound diagnosis. The technology has seen strong investment over the last 18 months as suppliers strived to develop a reproducible methodology.

Matrix transducers. Matrix transducers provide enhanced imaging in transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) and 4D imaging. The increasing specificity in newer applications has provided a new avenue for this technology specifically in its use in interventional cardiology.

Fusion ultrasound systems. Ultrasound fusion is an emerging technique in the field of abdominal imaging with translation possibilities to neuroradiology. This technique involves the co-registered display of live ultrasound with a reference series from another modality, such as CT, MRI, and PET.

"Advancements in ultrasound technology include 3D ultrasound that formats the sound wave data into 3D images. There are three types of Doppler ultrasound: color Doppler, power Doppler, and spectral Doppler. Color Doppler shows array of colors to visualize the speed and direction of blood flow. Power Doppler is more sensitive than color Doppler especially when blood flow is minimal, whereas spectral Doppler displays blood-flow measurements graphically, in terms of the distance traveled per unit of time. Newer technology of contrast and elastography has changed the diagnostic abilities and practically histopathological diagnosis is possible with ultrasound."

Dr Falguni Shah,
Professor and Head, Radiology Department,,
GMERS Sola Medical College, Ahmedabad

Contrast-enhanced ultrasound. CEUS is a powerful diagnostic modality that combines the use of second-generation contrast agents consisting of microbubbles with existing ultrasound techniques.

As ultrasound continues to increase in demand and applications become more specialized, technology will continue to evolve and become more sophisticated. Whilst advances have been made, the technology still requires further refining for widespread use.

Indian Market Dynamics is based on market research conducted by Medical Buyer in January 2015.


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