New technologies could lead European ultrasound market into the billions

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Advancements in obstetrics and gynecology ultrasound, hand-carried ultrasound as well as other smaller market segments, such as urology and surgical ultrasound, are driving the European ultrasound market which is expected to climb to $1.4 billion in 2014, according to a new Frost & Sullivan report.

“Increased demand from private practitioners as well as the growing number of breast and prostate ultrasound procedures will boost market growth," said Krishna Bhattacharjee, Frost & Sullivan research analyst. "With the use of hand-carried ultrasound units for the anesthesia and emergency wards, the European market for ultrasound is set to experience sustained growth."

With advances in technology, particularly in the form of miniaturization of transducer probes, elastography as well as 3D and 4D imaging, the market is poised to grow at a steady rate in the coming years, according to the report.

Frost & Sullivan also noted that advances in volume-rendering technologies in ultrasound will spur market growth. The market will witness substantial growth due to the widespread acceptance of hand-carried ultrasound by European hospitals, as well as private diagnostic settings.

"Hand-carried and portable ultrasound, coupled with advancements in breast ultrasound, will promote market expansion," said Bhattacharjee. "At the same time, growing demand from private practitioners to promote volume sales together with volume-rendering technology for ultrasound will drive the uptake of new equipment."

However, the market for radiology ultrasound will experience a gradual decline in the coming years owing to high levels of saturation, the report noted. Continuous price erosion, as well as the rising demand for refurbished equipment among private clinicians, will also hamper market growth.

The market will, therefore, be driven by companies that can provide enhanced value-added offerings and cater to the untapped potential in surgical, urology and musculoskeletal ultrasound, Frost & Sullivan said.

Sustaining competitive pricing alongside advancements in technology, competition from multi-slice CT and low-cost manufacturers that will fuel price erosion will pose major challenges to market expansion, the report said. The lack of complete reimbursement for several ultrasound procedures, coupled with the lack of standardization of 3D and 4D imaging, will also affect adoption rates.

"With the influx of low-cost manufacturers, price sensitivity will continue to be a cause of concern for vendors," Bhattacharjee warned. "The lack of complete reimbursement for several clinical applications of ultrasound may also hamper the market's growth, providing an edge to other imaging modalities such as multislice CT."

Global vendors need to develop improved value-added offerings to counter the threat posed by low-cost manufacturers, according to the report. They should also form lobbies or associations to promote the complete reimbursement for different ultrasound procedures.

Furthermore, the report advised companies to strategize to efficiently cater to the demand for mid-range ultrasound equipment from private clinics.