Clinical trends and market growth in ablation technologies

The number and type of clinical applications for tissue ablation are proliferating almost as fast as the number and type of technologies and manufacturers.  These versatile technologies have clinically demonstrated ability to provide therapeutic destruction of tissue, excision of tissue, formation of therapeutic lesions and other therapeutic benefits across a wide range of clinical specialties.

Over the past decade, the application of ablation technologies has been propelled by clinical evidence, indeed.  The ability to precisely target malignant tissue (e.g., tumors, errant pathways in arrhythmia, fibroids, etc.) while producing minimal "collateral" tissue damage has validated many specific ablation modalities (e.g., laser, radiofrequency, microwave, cryo, etc.) for specific clinical applications. Those benefits notwithstanding, the growth of ablation technology in the medical device industry has been even further propelled by innovative manufacturers who have aligned their product development with the specific needs of clinicians and healthcare systems to produce instrumentation and equipment that facilitates the effective management of large patient caseload at reasonable cost and attractive clinical outcomes.

The future of ablation technology markets will be dictated by recent trends and the continued development of products that offer clinicians with effective tools in their armamentaria to manage growing patient populations in cost effective and clinically advantageous ways.

Below is illustrated the 2011 worldwide ablation technologies market and its forecast growth by modality type.

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #A145, "Ablation Technologies Worldwide Market, 2009-2019: Products, Technologies, Markets, Companies and Opportunities."

Growth and uptake of ablation technologies in clinical practice

Technologies for the therapeutic ablation of tissues are diverse — from ultrasound to electrical, light to radiation — but their common function is to cause the controlled destruction of tissue, either for its excision or simply to remove its aberrant function (as in arrhythmia).

The uptake of the different ablation technologies in clinical practice is driven by the relevance of specific energy types for specific tissue types, the ability to avoid collateral tissue damage, clinician acceptance of manufacturers' equipment and devices and a variety of other factors.

The resulting size of the different ablation market segments, and their growth, is a result of both the historical success each has had in clinical practice and the degree to which these are trending toward continued uptake in therapeutic ablation.

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #A145, "Ablation Technologies Worldwide Market, 2009-2019: Products, Technologies, Markets, Companies and Opportunities."

Ablation technologies are driven by cancer therapy, general surgery and cardiovascular disease treatments

Technologies used for medical and surgical ablation are used in virtually all clinical practices.  Ablation is the therapeutic destruction or excision of tissue for purposes ranging from the destruction and excision of cancerous or otherwise diseased tissue, the cauterizing of wounds, the formation of therapeutic lesions as in ablation of abnormally conducting cardiac tissue in atrial fibrillation and others.

Ablation technology types are differentiated, for the most part, on the kind of energy employed.  These include light/laser, radiation, radiofrequency, microwave, ultrasound, cryo, electrical, thermal and hydromechanical.

While the number and type of ablation technologies makes them versatile tools for use in a wide range of general surgical procedures, the predominant use of ablation technologies is in cancer therapy for the excision and destruction of cancerous tissue, followed by general surgery applications, then cardiovascular disease applications. Below is the share of the global medical technology product revenues in ablation by major clinical area of application.

Share of Global Medical Product Revenues in Ablation, by Clinical Area

Source:  "Ablation Technologies Worldwide Market, 2009-2019: Products, Technologies, Markets, Companies and Opportunities", MedMarket Diligence, LLC, Report #A145.

The current aggregate market for ablation technologies worldwide stands at over $11 billion, with most technology types growing at double-digit rates as these technologies are made more and more routine in clinical practice and as physicians increase the patient caseload (and indications) targeted by these technologies.

Growth of modalities in tissue ablation

An examination of the future markets for technologies used in therapeutic ablation has support for a general and sustained growth in ablation technology revenues:


Source: Report #A145

However, when considering the relative growth of each of the modalities in tissue ablation, it is clear that some modalities are growing more aggressively than others:


Source: Report #A145

The “traditional” types of tissue ablation — electrosurgery and radiation therapy — are losing relative share as new modalities are able to penetrate caseload of other modalities, or even tap previously untreated patients and increase the aggregate caseload. In particular, radiofrequency and cryotherapy will demonstrate the highest growth over the 2011 to 2019 period.

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Tissue ablation is predominantly cancer therapy

Tissue ablation is defined as the “removal of a body part or the destruction of its function, as by surgery, disease, or a noxious substance.” Put more simply, ablation is considered to be a therapeutic destruction and sealing of tissue.

The technologies representing the majority of physical (rather than chemical) ablation are comprised of the following:

  • Electrical
  • Radiation
  • Light
  • Radiofrequency
  • Ultrasound
  • Cryotherapy
  • Thermal (other than cryotherapy)
  • Microwave
  • Hydromechanical

Source: Report #A145, "Ablation Technologies Worldwide Market, 2009-2019: Products, Technologies, Markets, Companies and Opportunities."

The largest share of the market for energy-based ablation devices is used in cancer therapy, primarily using the radiation therapy modality. Following that is general surgery with its use of electrocautery and electrosurgical devices, RF ablation, cryotherapy, etc. Cardiovascular is thought to be third, even though cardiovascular is making the most noise in the medical press with RF and cryoablation of atrial fibrillation, this segment is thought to be third in share order. The remaining applications are relatively small and fall in line behind the three leading sectors.

Growth in the Asia/Pacific Market for Ablation Technologies


The Asia-Pacific market for ablation technologies looks quite different from the Americas and European Union. Here, at present, the largest market is Japan, which accounts for the majority of the market, although by population and current growth rates, the People’s Republic of China has the greatest potential. Its greater than 1.3 billion population and, more importantly, the healthcare infrastructure that the government is putting into place ensure that China will continue to comprise an ever greater share of this market.


Data in the exhibit is drawn from MedMarket Diligence report #A145, "Ablation Technologies Worldwide Market, 2009-2019: Products, Technologies, Markets, Companies and Opportunities."



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Shifting caseload and markets in tissue ablation

Technologies to therapeutically ablate tissue (via destruction and/or removal of abnormal tissue or creation of a therapeutic lesion as in blocking errant electrical pathways in arrhythmia) represent a remarkably diverse set of tools despite their fundamentally common capability of tissue ablation.

Spanning electrical, radiation, light/laser, radiofrequency, ultrasound, cryotherapy, thermal therapy, microwave and hydromechanical and embodied in a wide range of medical devices and equipment, all ablation types simply destroy tissue.  The differences lie in respect to the specificity of each modality in targeting disease tissue and in respect to their capacity to be integrated in different types of instruments that may match the demands of specific clinical practices.

The recent history of ablation technology market developments reveals that, despite the specialization of modalities to specific tissues, or the efforts by manufacturers to carve out clinician or disease-state niches for specific modalities, growth in different ablation procedure types and clinical practice patterns has changed steadily but not always predictably.  Recent clinical results, new ablation device innovations and other developments have had the propensity to drive shifts in patient caseload between alternative ablation types.  Given the development and manufacturing costs, have largely and unsurprisingly maintained focus in typically one modality type, seeking to provide innovations in devices and equipment that accentuate benefits for there specific modality in specific clinical applications.

Below is illustrated the worldwide market for ablation technologies in 2009 and forecast 2019.

Source: "Ablation Technologies Worldwide Market, 2009-2019: Products, Technologies, Markets, Companies and Opportunities." Report #A145.