Just like cameras, x-rays are now moving into the 21st century, and images digitally captured without the need for film. X-rays, also known as radio-graphs are slowly stepping into the future with the invention of digital x-rays.
Conventional x-rays require the use of photographic-style film and the use of chemical processing to develop these films. On the other hand, digital x-rays use digital sensors or an electronic pad in place of the film. Instead of producing and viewing the images on a film, the images are loaded and stored in a computer and can be viewed using any type of monitor or viewing device.
Advantages of using digital x-ray instead of conventional x-ray
The use of digital x-ray in the medical field has proven to be very beneficial. The advantages include:
- Since digital x-ray eliminates the stage of chemical processing, a significant amount of time is saved.
- Levels of exposure to radiation are significantly lower when using digital x-rays. They may be reduced by up to around 90%.
- Instead of storing big and bulky films, digital x-rays make use of an archiving system for digital storage.
- Since digital x-rays are stored in computers, they can also be sent to other computers or devices and are readily viewable by other doctors or medical professionals. With conventional x-rays, the films need to be personally viewed by the doctor for them to make a diagnosis or conclusion. With digital x-rays, transferring and sharing the images are easier.
- Digital x-rays eliminate the need to retake x-rays and further exposing the patient to radiation. They can be manipulated, resized or enhanced as needed. The images can be enlarged, reduced, zoomed in or out, lightened or darkened.
- Digital x-rays can be stored in CDs or other storage devices for the patient to take home. They can also be electronically transmitted if needed. For example, the images can be emailed to the insurance or other medical professionals if the patient needs to be referred.
- It is also easier to produce multiple copies just by printing out the digital x-rays.
- Digital x-rays are also more cost-efficient. It eliminates the need for films, darkrooms and chemicals.
- Digital x-rays are earth-friendly. It eliminates the need to use hazardous chemicals used in developing conventional x-rays.
Types of digital x-rays
Digital x-rays may be produced through two types of systems:
- Computed radiography – Computed radiography, also known as indirect radiography, is quite similar to conventional radiography in terms of equipment, but instead of using a film, an imaging plate, usually placed inside a cassette, is used to record the image. The plates are then radiated so that it can be digitally scanned using an image reading device.
- Direct radiography – With direct radiography, the image is captured directly on a flat panel detector, without using a cassette. Direct radiography equipment is directly connected to the computer as well. With this method, there is no separate image readout step.
Steps in capturing a digital x-ray
There are four basic steps in capturing a digital x-ray:
- Exposing a detector to x-rays
- X-rays are then absorbed by the detector
- The image is derived using a software
- Archiving of the processed image into a picture archiving and communication system (PACS)