Advances in technology and an increasing demand from doctors to assess diseases close-up is expected to push the global market for medical imaging to $US45 billion ($60 billion) by the early 2020s.

That’s good news for the handful of ASX med-tech stocks that focus on medical or diagnostic imaging used to diagnose, treat and monitor clinical conditions.

>> Scroll down for our list of ten ASX-listed medical imaging stocks that could benefit.

What is medical imaging?

Medical imaging covers a wide variety of technologies such as x-rays, ultrasounds and MRIs — but any kind of data collected about tissues or organs can be included in the wider definition.

Most people are familiar with x-rays, which use a small amount of radiation to display the contrast between soft and hard tissue on film.

Fluoroscopy is based on the same principle — but allows real-time monitoring using a contrast dye (containing barium sulphate) which the patient takes via IV, enema or drink.

When imaging is combined with therapy — for example radiation treatment for cancer — it’s referred to as nuclear medicine.

Sonography uses high-frequency sound (or ultrasound) waves to create a 2D or 3D image of the tissues within the area it is targeting. Other information such as blood flow and heartbeat can be added to the visual image using a doppler scan.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses electromagnetic fields to interact with the body’s water molecules to produce 2D image “slices” of the tissue under examination.

Other kinds of medical diagnostics which are sometimes grouped under medical imaging include those that produce physiological functioning in the form of data output.

Electroencephalograms (EEG) monitor brain function; electrocardiography (ECG) measures heart activity and bioimpedance spectroscopy (BIS) analyses the body’s fluid composition using electrical resistance.

Cutting edge medical imaging innovators often combine these methods or use existing technologies in new fields to build market share.

Demand for new, more powerful medical imaging technology will continue to grow because doctors want to assess medical problems at an increasingly fine-grained resolution.

This growth in “precision medicine” was noted recently in a report by  the Australian Council of Learned Academies.

Here are some ASX-listed medical imaging stocks that could benefit:

Imaging technology

Micro-X (ASX:MX1) produces a range of portable x-ray systems, most commonly used in healthcare applications such as aged care homes and military or humanitarian field hospitals.

It’s also been contracted to develop a backscatter imaging system (on tracks) for the Australian Department of Defence for use in remote bomb disposal situations where it can check for improvised explosive devices.

Resonance Health (ASX:RHT) employs MRI imaging of the liver for iron and fat levels, as well as scanning bone marrow for iron. These procedures are commonly required for cancer patients facing organ transplants, and had previously required a painful biopsy.

Optiscan (ASX:OIL) produces confocal endomicroscopes for clinical and research use, designed for examining eyeballs and the insides of stomachs.

Telix (ASX:TLX) works in precision medicine, using small molecule therapy to target cancer cells and deliver an imaging or therapeutic agent to the target. This technique of molecularly-targeted radiation can be used before other imaging methods are able to see cancerous tumours, and even in conjunction with other cancer therapies.

Imagion Biosystems (ASX:IBX) uses magnetic nanoparticle image-guided therapy for the treatment of cancers. Imagion’s MagSense technology (pictured above) uses tiny nanoparticles to “tag” cancers which are picked up by highly sensitive magnetic sensors that locate and characterise tumours.

Compumedics (ASX:CMP) makes neurological monitoring devices for sleep and neurology diagnostics and ultrasonic blood flow monitoring. Their product core include audio sleep recorders, EEGs, transcranial sonography, magneto encephalography (a combination of EEG, MRI, CT, SPECT and PET).

Cyclopharm (ASX:CYC) supplies nuclear medicine departments within hospitals and clinics with the contrast agents. Their technegas product is used in lung imaging. It’s a specific imaging technique using single-photon emission computed tomography, which claims a lower radiation dose than the standard practice of computed tomography pulmonary angiography.

Monitoring/Medical Devices

Uscom (ASX:UCM) makes all the gadgets your GP might need — but with all the latest functionality a data analyst would want. Producing monitoring devices for blood pressure, flow, volume, lung capacity, doppler, spirometer, as well as specialist products for clinicians involved in telehealth and surgery.

Impedimed (ASX:IPD) makes BIS devices, targeting the medical fluid/tissue measurement market such as specialists dealing with lymphoedema.

Atcor Medical (ASX:ACG) produces the Sphygmocor, a key tool in the management of hypertension, renal disease, heart failure, diabetes, COPD – measuring arterial pressure, waveform analysis.


This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.