Medical Imaging: An Evolving Technology

Published - Feb 2000| Analyst - Eddie Zanrosso| Code - HLC020A
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Report Highlights

  • The U.S. diagnostic imaging is a growing multibillion market. The total market is growing at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 5.9% through 2004. Valued at just over $4 billion in 1999, diagnostic imaging will generate nearly $5.4 billion by the 2004.
  • X-ray systems dominate the market in terms of growth and revenue, growing at an AAGR of 7.8% and garnering a 47.7% share. Digital systems, a relatively small fraction of the X-ray systems market, are nonetheless on pace to eventually replace older equipment. These systems alone are experiencing market growth of nearly 23% per year on average. By 2004, X-ray systems will account for 52.1% of the market for diagnostic imaging equipment.
  • CT, Ultrasound, and nuclear medicine systems, while experiencing sales growth, are not expected to keep pace. Together, CT and Ultrasound systems will grow at an AAGR of 4.1% through the period, while systems for nuclear medicine will grow at an average annual rate of only 3.4%.



The field has evolved in two complementary ways. New imaging technologies or modalities have been introduced. In addition, the field is being transformed from analog imaging to digital imaging. Some of the new modalities such as CT and MRI are inherently digital in nature because of their need for signal processing and electronic data acquisition. Older modalities such as X-ray and ultrasound are entering the digital age. New uses for diagnostic imaging such as interventional radiology and electrophysiology have developed.

The impact of this is far reaching. Once an image is in digital form it can be sent over telephone lines or microwave links to a specialist at a remote location. The radiologist can then view and overlay images from different modalities on his workstation, which can be located in the hospital or at home. He may even access the images over the Internet.

The rooms full of X-ray film will eventually be changed to jukebox systems storing laser disks. Imagine how much silver is tied up in stored X-ray film. The images stored on optical media in a computer-controlled jukebox cannot be misplaced like X-ray films.


Diagnostic imaging is an evolving part of modern medicine. It is entering a new era of digital imaging. The field has evolved from the early X-rays by Roentgen over 100 years ago to imaging of organs by computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which are 20 years old. Medical imaging is used for diagnosis of the leading causes of death, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. What was once called the radiology department is now called the diagnostic imaging department because of the wealth of new technologies available beyond X-rays. A trauma victim's internal injuries are imaged with a CT scanner. Breast cancer, a leading cause of death in women, is detected with mammography and ultrasound.

Diagnostic imaging is an important part of medical diagnosis. Its application ranges from the use of a dentist's X-ray to find tooth decay to angiograms done to aid a cardiologist in performing an angioplasty. The aging baby boomer population will need the new imaging capabilities for cancer and heart disease detection. This report will discuss the current and emerging opportunities in diagnostic imaging. It will also describe the various imaging modalities and how they differ. The report will examine the opportunities for startup companies in the fields of diagnostic imaging. The differences and similarities between different modalities and their uses will also be discussed.

Sales of diagnostic imaging companies have been frequent in the 1990s. These sales and the partnerships between companies will be discussed.

The industry has been changing due to cost containment, primarily within managed care and Medicare. This has led to a wider range of systems with the inclusion of entry-level machines. Entry-level machines are also important for sales to emerging nations. To shorten hospital stays, emphasis has been placed on interventional radiology for less invasive surgery.


The goal of this report is to describe the changes in the diagnostic imaging suite and the and technology opportunities that exist and will develop in the near future. The industry has several large multinational companies. However, there are many viable mid-sized companies specializing in one or two types of imaging, often for specialized imaging. Startup companies are numerous, especially in the fields of teleradiology and digital X-ray imaging where there is enormous room for innovation.

The revolution in medical imaging is being fueled not only by new medical imaging technology but also by advances in computer hardware and software. New systems such as spiral CT or multislice CT would not be possible without today's faster processors. Large mass-storage systems such as the optical disk enable the storage of the massive amount of data from diagnostic imaging systems. Better software algorithms for image analysis and compression make the process more accurate and efficient. The growth of diagnostic imaging is an important source of revenue for computer manufacturers such as Compaq and Mercury and for software companies such as ISG Technologies, a Canadian company specializing in software for diagnostic imaging. There are many opportunities for new software companies in diagnostic imaging.


The study objectives are to describe the current technology and the products of diagnostic imaging and to show how modern technology is changing the products.

Emerging opportunities and the reasons that they are attractive are examined. The dynamics of the diagnostic imaging is explored. New applications for imaging systems will also be discussed.


The information sources for this report include company web sites and press releases. Financial information is from Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, primarily 10-K and 10-Q forms. Statistical data on sales is from the Bureau of Census.


The author is a physicist with over 15 years of experience in medical imaging. His research and development background includes X-ray systems and detector design.

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