Advances and Future of Medical Imaging

Published Date : Jul 21, 2014

Medical imaging refers to the process of producing visual representations of the internal aspects of the body for analysis, diagnosis and treatment. Noninvasive medical imaging devices enable to create a database of the physiology for future reference and to identify any defects. Medical imaging tools include radiography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), ultrasound, tomography, tactile imaging, elastography, angiography, mammography, fluoroscopy, etc.

Digital imaging modalities have a wide scope for use in various branches and sub-disciplines of medicine: preventive or curative, and the global medical imaging market [] for existing devices, as well as new time-saving and life-enhancing devices is ever growing. The field of neuroimaging – one of the non-diagnostic imaging sectors, photoacoustics, and use of imaging devices in pharmaceutical clinical trials is relatively new and unexplored and is one if the driving forces in the market today. Traditionally, MRI and CT scans generated 2D images, but recent techniques have been developed which enable 3D images that are invaluable in the course of surgical treatment.

The use of imaging devices requires trained technical, medical and engineering personnel to ensure safe and effective procedures. Moreover, the spaces using imaging modalities must adhere to radiation protection regulations. 

Diagnostic imaging devices and their functions

 X-ray machines: X-ray imaging creates visuals of the internal anatomy of the body. X-rays are used mostly for checking broken bones. But they can also be used to detect pneumonia via chest x-rays, or breast cancer using mammograms.

CT scans: A Computed Tomography (CT) uses x-ray equipment to create cross-sectional images of the body. CT scans are used to detect cancers, blood clots, internal bleeding, signs of heart diseases, etc. A CAT scan, or Computed Axial Tomography, is used in case of brain injuries or even eye-related disorders. 

MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses a large magnet and radio waves to view internal organs and structure of the body. MRIs are most useful in brain and spinal cord examinations. Patients with cochlear implants, pacemakers, metallic foreign bodies and ferromagnetic implants are contraindications to using MRI.

Ultrasound: An ultrasound is a diagnostic tool that uses high-frequency sound waves to examine internal organs such as kidneys, liver, blood vessels and heart. An ultrasound (ultrasonography) is also used to view the fetus during pregnancy. An echocardiography uses ultrasound to view detailed structures of the heart.

Advantages of medical imaging devices

Medical imaging technology has revolutionized medicine, and allows doctors to detect abnormalities earlier and results in better patient outcome. Being noninvasive, the devices can be used for patients of all age groups and across any medical field. While there are risks of medical radiation, scientists have developed innovations that have reduced dose of radiation by nearly 75%. Furthermore, medical imaging allows a microscopic view of the anatomy that is highly personalized, effective and accurate. Medical modalities also generate large-scale employment to technical and non-technical workers. 

Advances in diagnostic imaging and its future

Diagnostic imaging is an ever-evolving field and many remarkable changes have been tracked since its introduction to everyday medicine: shift of x-rays files from film to digital, unclear MRIs to high-quality images, and compact and portable ultrasound equipment. Medical imaging has a wide scope for innovation. A wide variety of noninvasive diagnostic innovations offer options to patients who either have fear of physicians, or are unable to visit a doctor. Researchers suggest, and are working on, a scanner-embedded bathroom mirror that detects retinopathy, or a toilet that identifies kidney infections or diabetes through urine analysis. 

Overview of the global medical imaging market

Reports by a leading market research firm suggests that the market for diagnostic imaging devices will continue to boom at an increasing pace over the next few years. The market value for these devices stood at approximately USD 20.7 billion in 2010, and revenues are estimated to reach USD 25.3 billion by 2015, and USD 26 billion by 2016-end. Technical development and advancement in medicine will positively affect the growth of medical imaging. North America is currently dominating the market with over 35% of the global industry share, followed by Europe and Asia.

Among all imaging devices, x-ray machines dominate the market share with revenues to reach USD 9.1 billion, and annual growth rate to reach 3.5% by 2017. Some of the key players in the global medical imaging devices market include Philips Healthcare, Siemens Healthcare, GE Healthcare, Toshiba Medical System Corp and Hitachi Medical Corp. 

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