Background The rigorous elicitation of user needs is a crucial step for both medical device design and purchasing. However, user needs elicitation is often based on qualitative methods whose findings can be difficult to integrate into medical decision-making. This paper describes the application of AHP to elicit user needs for a new CT scanner for use in a public hospital. Methods AHP was used to design a hierarchy of 12 needs for a new CT scanner, grouped into 4 homogenous categories, and to prepare a paper questionnaire to investigate the relative priorities of these. The questionnaire was completed by 5 senior clinicians working in a variety of clinical specialisations and departments in the same Italian public hospital. Results Although safety and performance were considered the most important issues, user needs changed according to clinical scenario. For elective surgery, the five most important needs were: spatial resolution, processing software, radiation dose, patient monitoring, and contrast medium. For emergency, the top five most important needs were: patient monitoring, radiation dose, contrast medium control, speed run, spatial resolution. Conclusions AHP effectively supported user need elicitation, helping to develop an analytic and intelligible framework of decision-making. User needs varied according to working scenario (elective versus emergency medicine) more than clinical specialization. This method should be considered by practitioners involved in decisions about new medical technology, whether that be during device design or before deciding whether to allocate budgets for new medical devices according to clinical functions or according to hospital department.