Today's MRI Market


The global MRI market is currently valued in the region of US$5.5 billion (2010) and is estimated to rise to US$7.5 billion by the year 2015.   Of this the US market is estimated at US4.5 million (2010) rising to US$5.8 million by 2015 (GIA, 2010; Reportlinker 2010).   The leading MRI producers are GE (Signa brand), Siemens (Magnetom), Philips (Achieva, Intera, Panorama), Hitachi (Aaltaire, Airis) and Toshiba (Vantage, Opart, Ultra).  Products range from Low Field systems (<0.5T) through Mid Field (0.5-1T) High Field (usually 1.5T) to Very High Field (usually 3T).

Procedure Types

Currently the greatest demand for MRI procedures in the US is for Brain,  Head and Neck scans with spine and extremity scans running a close second.  The following chart shows a breakdown of procedure types in the years 2010 and 2007.

Procedure types 2010, 2007

MRI Procedure Type
Procedure numbers (millions)
% of all procedures
% of sites performing
Procedure numbers (millions)
% of all procedures
% of sites performing
Brain Head and Neck
Vascular (MRA)
Pelvic & Abdominal
Chest, other cardiac
Other (inc interventional)


The MRI Market

MRI imaging has been an important clinical diagnostic tool since the 1980s, with the current global market estimated to be around US$4.5 billion per annum from the sale of around 3500 systems (Global Industry Analysts, 2008; Frost and Sullivan, 2008). The US, European and Japanese markets represent approximately 80% of this total and are largely mature markets, with purchasers upgrading their outmoded systems and acquiring additional MRI scanners to meet demand, within stringent cost-efficiency criteria.

High field and very high field whole body cylindrical scanners dominate the market, supplied by major multinational companies including GE Healthcare (approximately 25-30% market share), Siemens (around 25-30% market share), Philips (20% market share), Toshiba (10-12% market share) and Hitachi (5% market share) (GIA, 2008).  

Very high field whole body systems have been well received by the market as they provide additional applications previously unavailable and greatly improve imaging resolution and quality (particularly for cartilage). However, very high field whole body MRI systems are large (3-4 tonnes), expensive to purchase and site. These characteristics have meant many hospitals have deferred purchasing decisions or sought alternatives.

Sales of very high field whole body systems have grown rapidly; industry analysts Frost & Sullivan have forecast sales in the US alone to reach almost 500 units per annum by 201 , although healthcare cost cutting may reduce this volume.

Nevertheless there is some indication that patients and clinicians demand high field scans and are prepared to travel to receive a very high field scan rather than a local scan on a ‘gold standard’ high field system, forcing clinics and hospitals to upgrade to remain competitive. Major systems integrators have recently sought to introduce ‘magnet upgrades’ where systems initially incorporating high field magnets can be ‘upgraded’ to very high field capability through magnet (rather than system) replacement (e.g. Philips).

The average sales price for a ‘gold standard’ high field MRI scanner is approximately US$1-1.3 million, while a very high field system is approximately US$2.3 million. The superconducting magnet system in an MRI scanner represents around 30% of the cost of the entire system.

Specialist MRI market

Recently niche markets have opened up focusing on extremity imaging. These include whole body system providers for breast imaging, but also smaller compact systems for scanning arms, hands, wrists, knees, ankles, etc. This is where Magnetica is presently focussed.

Arms, hands, wrists, knees, ankles etc comprise around 20-25% of all scans required in the US (IMV, 2007) and so form a significant portion of the market. Dedicated scanners are therefore an efficient, cost effective solution to satisfying this market, particularly in budget conscious times, and are not only attractive to hospitals to cost-effectively support existing whole body systems, but also to specialised hospital departments and imaging clinics that provide ‘one-stop-shop’ services for patients (and sports teams).

Only ONI Medical Systems sold high field superconducting based systems in this market (including the new system released in 2008 incorporating our first magnet product). ONI’s installed base is around 175 scanners worldwide. GE signalled the growing importance of this niche market through acquisition of ONI’s business assets in 2009 (Reuters, 2009), and also their intention to grow this market significantly and quickly (Pulse Fall 2009, Spring 2010). This system meets GE’s goals of (low) cost, quality and (increased) access.

A dedicated very high field specialist MRI system, such as an extremity scanner, is much smaller (350-400 kg), cheaper and easier to site, and breaks even at around 4-5 patients per day, compared with 20-23 patients per day for a very high field whole body scanner. Dedicated scanners are an efficient, cost effective solution to satisfying this market, and are attractive to both hospitals and specialised hospital departments and imaging clinics.

Other potential applications for small, cost effective MRI scanners include clinical trials (e.g. imaging rats, rabbits etc – providing imaging without euthanizing the animal), or veterinary applications for small companion pets or zoo animals.

Major MRI systems Integrators

The five major systems integrators (GE Healthcare, Siemens, Philips, Toshiba and Hitachi) dominate the global MRI market, with GE and Siemens having the largest market share. The remainder of the market is shared by smaller, often niche-directed companies (e.g. Esaote – low field extremity; IMRIS – intra-operative systems; Fonar – low field upright systems).

Major systems integrators tend not to operate initially in new niche markets but let other players establish such markets. GE Healthcare has now moved into the extremity imaging market.
There are no Chinese or Indian systems integrators selling their own superconducting MRI systems as yet. However, a number of Chinese and Indian companies are taking steps to enter into this market in competition with the majors, and Magnetica believes there are prospects to sell its products and/or its designs into these very large markets.

The major systems integrators have established R&D, sales and supply chains into major hospitals and clinics in the US, Europe and Japan, and major hospitals in developing markets.

Superconducting MRI magnet producers

  • GE, Siemens and Philips have their own in-house production. Philips acquired IGC (their magnet supplier) in 2006.
  • Hitachi do not have capability or capacity to design and manufacture and Toshiba do not have capability or capacity to manufacture cylindrical whole body superconducting magnets. Toshiba source their magnets from Siemens or Mitsubishi, while Hitachi source their high field superconducting magnet from Siemens.
  • GE, Siemens and Philips have legacy magnet factories in US and Europe which are set up for specific mass runs for their major systems. These are expensive to run and extremely expensive to change operating practices/manufacturing set-ups quickly.
  • The major systems integrators have limited capability to produce turnkey solutions and when they do supply magnets to external organisations, they are of existing older products
  • Mitsubishi, the only independent major superconducting magnet manufacturer, does not produce tailor made solutions and is subject to currency-driven cost fluctuation.
  • Other superconducting magnet manufacturers focus mainly on non-MRI magnets and include Magnex (UK, owned by Varian) and Bruker (Germany).
  • Barriers to entry mean that there are no truly independent MRI magnet manufacturers that have superconducting wire supply and demonstrated product development and delivery capability.