Male pattern blindness and MR

April 30, 2004

Along with a receding hairline that disproportionately affects some of us, all men, I was told recently, exhibit selective vision. If there's a job we don't want to do, the tools are nowhere to be found. If there's a place we don't want to go, shoes

Along with a receding hairline that disproportionately affects some of us, all men, I was told recently, exhibit selective vision. If there's a job we don't want to do, the tools are nowhere to be found. If there's a place we don't want to go, shoes vanish from sight.

We may be seeing a non-gender-specific form of that trait now in the MR industry. Revenues for MR last year were flat, despite an increase in the number of scanners sold in the U.S. While industry executives admit that the market is softening, they are not alarmed. The market, they say, is just taking a breather, as the revenues aren't much off from their record highs of a couple years ago. Besides, there is a bright spot-the rising popularity of 3T. Sales doubled last year, and they could double again this year to $200 million or more, a sizable chunk in a $1.5 billion market.

This curious situation-a red-hot island of growth bobbing in an otherwise flat sea of revenue-got me wondering. Is it possible 3T is to blame for the otherwise anemic MR market?

In the past, the introduction of premium technology has caused a sharp drop in the price vendors can charge for previously state-of-the-art equipment. An example is CT and the introduction six years ago of multidetector systems. Single-slice pricing went through the floor and, in an extraordinary turn of events, manufacturers now have all but abandoned single-slice scanners.

Three-T won't make 1.5T obsolete, but its rising popularity appears to be cutting the sales of 1.5T scanners off at the knees. The situation could be problematic because the sale of 1.5T scanners has been the primary driver behind the MR marketplace for almost 20 years.

If 3T is the underlying cause of softness in the MR marketplace, the industry must handle the transition to this higher field technology or risk chaos on a scale not seen in a decade, when sales took a disastrous nosedive. The nightmare scenario is an installed base relying increasingly on upgrades to keep its 1.5Ts, while turning its back on the purchase of new 1.5Ts, and then delaying purchases of 3Ts, as buyers and vendors haggle over the nontraditionally high price of $2 million plus.

This might be avoided entirely if vendors begin providing guidance to customers on the adoption of 3T systems, explaining to them where and how they should fit into MR practice. The alternative is to turn a blind eye to what might be coming and, hey, just hope for the best, dude.