Challenges persist for the future of molecular imaging

Molecular imaging is at a crossroads, according to a recent special report published by DOTmed News. While the field should be experiencing some exciting new developments and breakthroughs, it also faces serious challenges, the report outlines.

For example while a 2011 forecast by Frost & Sullivan predicted that the molecular imaging market would increase from $552 million in revenues to $841 million in 2017, that forecast may have been "a little too aggressive," Frost & Sullivan analyst Roberto Aranibar more recently told DOTmed News.

Declining reimbursements were a major factor in such a miscalculation, Aranibar said. He pointed out that nuclear cardiology saw significant cuts several years ago when Medicare bundled three reimbursement scan codes into one.

What's more, certain multimodality systems are maintaining their position of dominance in the field, such as PET/CT, while newer systems like PET/MRI offer potential for the future.

The former, the Advisory Board Company predicts, will 22 percent over the next five years, and 55 percent over the next decade, according to the report. That projected growth will be driven by a precipitous drop in PET/CT prices from between $1.8 to $3 million down to $1.3 to 2.3 million for scanners.

PET/MRI, meanwhile, has strong potential for neurology, according to the report, and its proponents suggest it will turn out to be a better, low-dose version of PET/CT that will replace it when it comes to brain, neck and prostate cancer applications. However, Stanley Goldsmith, a former professor of radiology and medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, suggested that it's a little too early to predict that PET/MRI will overtake PET/CT, and argued that patient concerns about the claustrophobic effects of MRI may outweigh concerns about radiation dose with CT.

SPECT/CT hasn't been as widely adopted as PET/CT, partly, the article contends, because Medicare never created a separate billing code for the former. Still, Goldsmith told DOTmed News that he is optimistic it will become more widely adopted since "anyone who can afford to purchase SPECT/CT would prefer interpreting images on it."

To learn more:
- read the DOTmed News special report
see the Frost and Sullivan forecast from 2011

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