The way in which ultrasound systems are marketed and purchased across the world is changing. 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. During the 1980s and 1990s, 3D and 4D ultrasound technology emerged for use in advanced cardiology, OB/GYN, and radiology procedures. As systems became more sophisticated and image quality improved, ultrasound was used in non-traditional ways to perform biopsies, guide needles, and assist during minimally invasive surgery. At the same time, ultrasound systems were developed for less advanced imaging as point of care tools in intensive care units, emergency departments, and primary care offices.
The global ultrasound market is estimated to have been worth $6.16 billion in 2015 and can be split into three broad clinical application segments: traditional, non-traditional, and point of care. Radiology, OB/GYN, and cardiology ultrasound comprise the traditional applications segment and represent the most common and well-established use of ultrasound imaging. In 2015, traditional ultrasound applications totaled $4.12 billion, 67% of total revenues. Global traditional ultrasound application revenues are predicted to grow at a CAGR of 2.1% from 2015 to 2020. However, in the Americas this market is expected to remain mostly flat as, instead, demand for more specialized features found in non-traditional and point of care systems in North America will grow. The Western European traditional ultrasound market is predicted to remain similarly steady over the next five years because of its saturation, an increasing need for specialization (as in North America), and continuing economic difficulties. Traditional ultrasound revenues will grow fastest in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, and some sub-regions of Asia Pacific, as countries there focus on improving the quality and availability of basic medical imaging.
The non-traditional segment includes ultrasound used for applications such as surgery, vascular, and veterinary imaging. Non-traditional application revenues are estimated to have totaled $1.47 billion in 2015, accounting for 24% of total revenues. New non-traditional applications for ultrasound are being regularly developed in established medical markets; the increasing specialization of ultrasound has led many suppliers to create ultrasound systems for specific clinical applications. The emergence of application-specific systems has generated markets for non-traditional clinical applications including breast, gastroenterology, internal medicine, interventional cardiology, interventional radiology, and urology ultrasound. Non-traditional ultrasound revenue growth from 2015 to 2020 will also be driven by the rise of minimally invasive procedures and the increasing use of ultrasound as a replacement for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). Specifically, these trends will generate revenue growth for the interventional cardiology and interventional radiology applications.
Point of care applications include anesthesia, critical care, emergency medicine, and musculoskeletal (MSK) ultrasound. In 2015, point of care revenues were $0.57 billion, 9% of the total revenues; from 2015 to 2020, they are projected to grow the fastest of the global application segments at a CAGR of 5.2%. From 2015 to 2020, point of care ultrasound will become more widely adopted in developing markets in Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe, and Latin America because of decreasing selling prices and increasing accessibility of point of care systems. The North American market for point of care ultrasound grew with a CAGR of 5% from 2013 to 2015, and this rate of growth is projected to continue through 2020. Although the global point of care ultrasound market will grow, educational and financial barriers in certain countries, including those with large economies such as Russia, India, and Brazil, will temper the global level of adoption of this application segment.
Additional information on the global ultrasound market is available from IHS in the Ultrasound Intelligence Service.