U.S. MRI annual volume growth slowing

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Growth in MRI volume slows to single-digit rates. Source: Clarksville Imaging  

In the last four years, MRI procedure volume growth in the United States has slowed to an average annualized rate of 3 percent, compared to an average growth rate of 15 percent prior to 2004, according to a new study published by IMV Medical Information Division.

According to the study, an estimated 27.5 million MRI procedures were performed at 7,195 sites in 2007, representing a 14 percent increase from 24.2 million in 2003, for an average annualized rate of 3 percent per year.

This represents a slowdown in procedure growth compared to the beginning of the decade, when the average annual growth rate from 1999 to 2003 was, on average, 15 percent each year, according to Lorna Young, senior director, market research at IMV.

“Several factors are contributing to the slower growth of MRI procedures, which in turn influences MRI purchases. With the advent of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, pre-certification requirements from health insurers, and the relative maturity of the MRI market, MRI purchases have slowed,” Young said.

“Currently, virtually all of the hospitals above 200 beds have at least one MRI, and the DRA has slowed the acquisition of MRI systems by independent imaging centers. Unlike CT, which is used 24x7 for emergency and scheduled procedures, MRI procedures tend to be provided on a scheduled basis for specifically prescribed indications. We have also observed that the replacement cycle for MRI is getting longer, which is slowing the number of MRIs that are replaced,” she added.

The study revealed that new procedures are the key avenue for growth, and 3T MRIs are providing some of the market excitement for the future. While only 3 percent of the units installed in 2003 were 3T, at least 20 percent of those who are planning to purchase MRI over the next few years are planning to purchase these systems as replacement or additional units for their department.

IMV's 2007 MRI Market Summary Report describes trends in procedure utilization, the MRI installed base and purchase plans, workstations, contrast media utilization and budgets, power injectors and site operations characteristics.

Highlights include:

  • Nearly 1,100 hospitals are using mobile MRI services to provide their MRI capability;
  • In 2007, the two highest volume categories were “spine” with 26 percent and “brain” with 25 percent of the MRI procedures;
  • MR angiography comprises 9 percent of the total MRI procedure mix;
  • MRI breast imaging studies have doubled since 2003 from 314,000 to 645,000 procedures, but still account for only 2 percent of the total number of MRI procedures; and
  • Of the 2007 MRI procedures, 43 percent used a contrast agent as part of the imaging procedure.

The report also covers adoption trends of new procedures such as echo planar imaging, MR spectroscopy, cardiac-approved MRI, functional MRI, and multi-channel MRI.