November 06, 2012 | Mike Miliard, Managing Editor

TORONTO – Even as reimbursement cuts and radiation dosing concerns have helped put the brakes on its growth, an increase in procedure volume will see the U.S. diagnostic imaging system market increase to roughly $4.5 billion through 2017, according to Millennium Research Group (MRG).

In its report, “US Markets for Diagnostic Imaging Systems,” MRG finds that a few more premium priced imaging sectors – most notably specialized ultrasound systems and nuclear medicine – will show much stronger growth over this period.

Market-wide, an uptick in procedures for an aging and increasingly unhealthy population, coupled with an increasing demand for minimally invasive surgery, will spur adoption of diagnostic systems.

[See also: As imaging heads ‘into Big Data territory,’ VNAs and PACS to fuel big growth]

Some will grow faster than others. For instance, the comparatively low cost of ultrasound systems means that cost-cutting measures have less effect on their purchases, and this segment will continue to grow, reaching a value of $1.8 billion by 2017, with particular growth in cardiology, radiology and emerging applications, say MRG researchers.

Cardiology ultrasound systems are seeing steadily improving technologies, including 3-D/4-D real-time applications and volume acquisition, which allow for complex image manipulation and thus command premium prices.

Radiology ultrasound systems are benefiting from a shift in procedure preference from other modalities such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Emerging systems will be the fastest growing imaging segment, say researchers, thanks mainly to the improved quality, performance and mobility of compact portable ultrasound systems.

[See also: RIS/PACS market growing, but very slowly]

Specialized nuclear medicine is another area poised to take off, as premium-priced hybrid single-photon emission CT (SPECT/CT) and positron emission tomography (PET/CT) systems come to replace standalone SPECT systems more and more.

“The selling price of a hybrid SPECT/CT system can range from half a million to a million dollars,” said MRG analyst Felix Lam. “As they replace their older standalone SPECT systems, hospitals will prefer sophisticated SPECT/CT systems that offer diagnostic CT capabilities and high-slice CT components that can also perform calcium scoring. Those premium prices will allow this segment of the market to grow through 2017.”

The MRG report looks at average selling price and revenue information, along with market drivers and limiters for ultrasound, MRI, X-ray, CT, and nuclear medicine systems in the U.S. Vendors mentioned in the research include GE Healthcare, Siemens and Philips.