The global ultrasound market is forecast to grow by 27 percent over the next five years despite ongoing economic challenges, with emerging healthcare markets key to sustaining future global growth, according to a new report entitled “The World Market for Ultrasound Imaging Equipment – 2013” from IMS Research, now part of IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS).

Among the factors driving the market expansion of ultrasound in the years to come are the projected strong growth of the China space, increased government investment to modernize healthcare in Russia, and health-improvement goals in Brazil and Southeast Asia.

The future prospects are encouraging, especially since the market was besieged last year in Europe and the United States, where economic headwinds made their ill effects known. For instance, reductions in healthcare spending in Southern Europe caused many healthcare providers to delay purchases and use their existing ultrasound equipment for longer periods of time.

Similarly in the U.S., uncertainty regarding the fiscal cliff and the Affordable Care Act also resulted in postponed ultrasound purchases during 2012. As a result, growth of the U.S. ultrasound market last year slowed to an estimated 3.4 percent, down from 8.1 per cent in 2011.

Nonetheless, strong growth in China helped counteract low growth last year in the mature markets and aided in boosting overall performance of the global ultrasound space. China will also continue to enjoy extensive government investment, with the country’s 2020 Health Plan aiming to provide equal access to healthcare services for the whole population by then. A strong focus of the plan is to increase the construction of county hospitals to provide so-called centers of excellence, while also adding to the number of clinics that support the population in smaller towns and villages.

 “Medical device manufacturers will benefit from the development of new infrastructure in China, as demand for medical systems will grow in order to equip new hospitals,” said Carly Reed, senior analyst for medical imaging at IHS. “Additional investment for existing hospitals to update old equipment will also spur demand for higher-specification ultrasound systems over the next few years.”

Another region where the ultrasound market grew last year was Russia, up nearly 25 percent, thanks to increased government investment in modernizing healthcare services, producing a substantial increase in tenders for ultrasound equipment. Growth is forecast to slow this year as a large proportion of equipment had been upgraded in 2012, and the Russian market may become more cyclical moving forward, with replacement driving strong growth again in five or six years.

Also helping to drive the long-term growth of the worldwide ultrasound market is the need to improve both the standard and access of healthcare services in many other emerging markets, such as India, Brazil and Southeast Asia, matched by the stronger performance forecast for many mature healthcare markets from 2014 onward.

The emerging markets will see penetration of ultrasound systems deepen, while the mature markets in areas like Europe and the United States will benefit as the economic picture improves and pent-up demand grows for imaging equipment.