Published reports on the usefulness of CT scans for complicated H1N1 cases have spurred use of these procedures in U.S. hospitals. According to healthcare market research publisher Kalorama Information, this opens up a pathway of diagnostics for physicians and overall is a positive sign not only for the technology but also for companies making chemical agents for procedures. In the recent report "Medical Imaging Markets: Contrast Agents," Kalorama estimates the sale of CT contrast agents in the U.S. at $880 million in 2009.
Computed tomography (CT) uses energy waves to image the human body and renders an image in 3D from a series of two-dimensional x-rays. Although it is not completely novel for a CT scan to be ordered for flu cases where pain is reported, a new study suggests the technology is preferable to x-rays. The study, conducted in coordination with the University of Michigan Health Service and published in the December 2009 issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology, has given new support to the modality's usage in the most severe cases of the H1N1 flu virus.
The study, which consisted of a review of thousands of patient records, offered several important findings: that H1N1 flu can cause pulmonary embolism, that PE may be responsible for H1N1 deaths, and that physician evaluation of patients diagnosed with respiratory complications via contrast-enhanced CT scan is recommended. The study did not establish the technology as a test for detecting the virus itself. The primary test for H1N1 is an immunoassay that can detect antigens for specific strains of flu. But the study supports using the CT scan as an adjunctive tool after other tests are performed, to determine if the patient's flu is a major case.
"This is one of many areas where the agent-enhanced CT scan is playing a supporting role in diagnosis," said Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information. "Physicians are increasingly comfortable with computed tomography when a diagnosis is not clear from other modalities."
Trauma, pediatric health, vascular imaging and cardiac imaging are among the areas where CT scans are employed, and other areas are being investigated. Kalorama estimates that over 54.5 million imaging procedures were performed in the U.S. in 2009, most requiring some kind of contrast agent. GE Healthcare, Covidien, Bayer, and Guerbet are among the large manufacturers of contrast agents used for computed tomography.
Kalorama Information's "Medical Imaging Markets: Contrast Agents" analyzes the world market for contrast media used with medical imaging diagnostic systems and for radiopharmaceuticals used in molecular imaging. The report includes market estimates, forecasts and company profiles.