Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a unique imaging modality that is fast becoming the most successful optics technology to date in the field of disease diagnostics. Invented at MIT in the early 1990s and first commercialized for medical imaging applications by Carl Zeiss in 1996, OCT offers the promise of fast, high-resolution diagnostic images for a variety of clinical applications. In fact, OCT has the potential to supplant existing imaging technologies in some medical specialties.
According to "Optical Coherence Tomography -- Technology, Markets, and Applications: 2008-2012," a new market research report from the publishers of BioOptics World that quantifies this rapidly growing market for the first time, the global market for OCT systems is currently around $200 million and growing at an annual rate of 34%. This growth is expected to continue at this pace for the next several years, with revenues topping $800 million by 2012.
While the first commercial application of OCT -- ophthalmology -- should remain the dominant application through 2012, new applications and products are emerging in cardiology, dentistry, cancer detection, glucose monitoring, and dermatology. In particular, commercial activity for OCT in intravascular imaging has been gaining momentum over the past 12 months, and this sector looks to be the next growth market for OCT technologies.
Much of this activity is being driven by a shift from time-domain to Fourier-domain OCT. While similar in theory and design, the Fourier-domain systems offer twice the resolution and 50 to 100 times the image-acquisition speed. In addition, because the Fourier-domain technique is not protected under the original tightly held patents that have limited competition with time-domain systems, a number of companies are now developing or marketing Fourier-domain OCT products.
"In 2006, a number of companies introduced 'spectral domain' systems to the ophthalmic market," said Greg Smolka, author of the OCT report. "These systems offer not only much faster image capture but, more important, much higher image accuracy. The new spectral-domain instruments generated a lot of buzz at the 2007 American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting, and many see them becoming the dominant imaging system in ophthalmology."
At least 18 companies are actively developing and/or manufacturing OCT systems, with many more supplying the key optical sources, detectors, and related photonics components that enable the various OCT products and applications. As this technology continues to penetrate new markets, opportunities exist for photonics companies in optical sources, detection, and delivery systems.
OCT systems manufacturers profiled in the report include Carl Zeiss Meditec, Heidelberg Engineering, OPKO (Ophthalmic Technologies), Optopol, Optovue, Topcon Medical Systems, Bioptigen, GlucoLight, Fox Hollow (ev3), Lightlab Imaging, Lantis Laser, Michelson Diagnostics, Glucolight, Tomophase, Santec, Thorlabs, Volcano/CardioSpectra, and Imalux. Source and components providers are also profiled, including Cambridge Technology, Denselight, Exalos, Femtolasers, Goodrich, Inphenix, Micron Optics, Multiwave Photonics, NP Photonics, Optiphase, and Superlum.