Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Planning Imaging Areas (X-Ray Units Part II)

Each x-ray device has a unique niche that it fills. Some are specific to imaging a body part, others are used for specific types of studies, and some are generic enough to be used in multiple different situations. It is helpful for anyone working with a medical equipment planner or providing medical equipment planning services to have a good understanding of each. Here is a sampling:

Mammography - Used to x-ray the breast, most often to screen for breast cancer.

Chest Unit - Used to image the chest area ideal for lungs, heart, liver, etc.

General Rad - Used to image the skeletal system (Bones & joints)

Mobile X-Ray Unit - Used for a variety of extremity and chest imaging needs at the patient bedside.

Portable C-arm - Creates a fluoroscopic image.

Flouroscopy (R&F Unit)- Creates a "Live Motion" image using a phosphor plate and an image intensifier to create a video.

CT Scanner - Used to image in 3D by creating "slices". The X-ray tube rotates around the patient and takes multiple x-rays, that are then re-created as a 3D image.

See a video of the internal workings of a CT scanner:

Podiatry - Used to image the foot

Dental - Used to image teeth and jaw

Angio/Cath/EP - These rooms are highly specialized for imaging the heart and vascular system.

Adding the term "digital" to any of these devices simply means that rather than use an x-ray film cassette, the system uses a digital imaging device. Much like traditional film has been largely replaced by digital cameras, the speed and expanded functionality of digital x-ray is changing the way departments are run. You will still find some radiologists who swear by film as a superior method, especially as it relates to mammography, where the subtlety of the image colors can be critical to detection. A quick explanation of why they feel this way may be helpful.

A traditional x-ray film is gathered as x-rays pass through body and strike the x-ray film surface on the other side of the body. It is the "actual" image created by the x-ray. In digital, a conversion process occurs. The x-rays that strike the surface of the digital receptor are converted into a signal that is transferred to a computer screen. It is essentially a series of dots that are each assigned a location in an x/y grid. The concern about digital imaging has been that very subtle variations may not be as clear in a digital image as in a traditional film. There is a a similar argument over the quality of CD's compared to the original pressed vinyl recordings of artists.

The technology has progressed greatly in the past few years, but there are still some who challenge the superiority of digital over film. There is no question that efficiency and lower costs are achieved by using digital imaging techniques to produce and share images among doctors and hospitals.

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