Recent development in digital X-rays


Abstract

The purpose of this research paper will be to discuss the recent developments that have taken place in digital x-ray technology. The field of digital x-rays or radiography is one that has seen many technological advancements taking place on a yearly basis as more and more equipment is developed to provide cope with digital imaging needs. The discussion will seek to identify the various types of developments that have taken place in digital radiography and whether these developments are more efficient than the conventional forms of digital radiography. The conclusion will offer a review of the research papers findings and points of discussion.

Introduction

Digital x-ray which is also referred to as digital radiography is a type of x-ray imaging technology that involves the use of x-ray sensors in digitally enhancing, altering or transfering images from one location to another. Digital x-rays are used as an alternative to the traditional photographic film which was less efficient and effective in transmitting images. Digital x-rays capture images and make them readily available to the user in the form of digital files which can be immediately previewed once they have been taken. Digital x-rays are mostly used in health care facilities such as clinics and hospitals in scanning of patients with various health complications after which the digital images are stored as part of the patient’s medical record (James et al 2616).

Digital x-rays have enabled most health care facilities to reduce on costs that are usually associated with processing, interpreting and managing the traditional photographic film. This explains why more and more hospitals have begun to incorporate digital radiographic equipment when conducting body scans of their patients. These digital x-rays are used in two types of digital image capture devices which include flat panel detectors (FPDs) and the high density line scan solid state detectors. Digital x-rays are also used in the radiographic examination of dental patients where a film or sensor is placed in the mouth of the patient so as to gain a visual image of the affected dental structure. Digital radiography is a field that is marked by constant technological advances and innovations where different radiological equipment is developed to address the digital imaging needs of various health care facilities and their patients (McClellan and Dorn 398).

Recent Developments in Digital X-rays

The past two decades have seen the growth of digital radiography being used in various digital imaging ventures forcing many organizations and industries to overlook the use of traditional film radiography in their operations. Manufacturers today have produced a variety of digital imaging products and services that incorporate the use of digital x-rays to create or produce images. The developments in digital x-ray technology have mostly taken place in digital detection technology where images are created, scanned, archived or stored in digital archives to allow for the easy retrieval of the images. Digital x-ray technology is becoming a common feature especially in the medical field where it has become one of the most powerful diagnostic and imaging tools for examining patients (Korner et al 675).

 The medical use of digital x-rays has become a common feature today when performing examinations such as mammograms, orthopedic examinations, optometric examinations and also dental scanning. Digital X-ray technology has enabled many hospitals and other health care facilities to store images of their patient’s medical conditions to ensure that there is easy access from the concerned physician (Korner et al 675). Digital x-ray technology has fast become a common feature in the technological environment where computer programs have been designed to feature digital radiography which is used during medical procedures. An example of computer programs that utilize digital radiography are the computerized axial tomography programs (CAT scan) which incorporate digital x-ray technology to generate 3-D images of the objects being scanned on the computer (McClellan and Dorn 398).

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) used in the medical field incorporates the use of digital x-rays to obtain a digital image of the bone structure of the patient. MRI technology identifies any structural deformities that a patient might have by exploiting the properties of atomic nuclei and the radioactive substances that exist in these nuclei to produce a digital image. The machines that are mostly used to produce digital images through the x-rays include electrocardiograms or ECGs, electroencephalograms (EEGs), ultrasound machinery, radiographs, fluorography systems, flat-panel systems and bone scanning equipment. These equipments incorporate the use of spatial resolution, and quantum efficiency to scan and produce images which will be used by doctors to detect any anomalies in their patients (James et al 2616).

One of the major reasons why digital X-ray equipment has become common in most hospitals is that it allows for the implementation of a full digital picture archive within the hospital’s communication system making the images available to doctors anytime they need to access their patient’s records. Digital X-rays have also ensured that the distribution of images within hospitals can be done electronically rather than manually through the use of web-based technology. This will minimize the risk of losing the images in the event they are retrieved through the manual system. Digital X-rays are also beneficial to hospitals in that they ensure that there is a higher patient throughput in the wards and that there is increased dose efficiency in the hospital (Korner et al 676).

The developments that have taken place in digital X-ray technology have mostly occurred in the generation, processing, archiving and presentation activities of the digital detectors and imaging equipment.  Digital radiography produces images through the use of computer radiography (CR) and direct radiography (DR). Computer radiography involves the use of image plates made of photostimulable crystal layers which absorb and temporarily store images within the crystal layers depending on the physical properties of the crystals. The digital image is created immediately digital detectors have been implemented since the readout process decreases as the amount of energy stored to read the image decreases over time. Developments in the photostimulable crystal sensors have seen the design and creation of storage phosphor systems which reduce the rate of x-ray exposure and also be incorporates into already existing radiographic devices (Rowlands 123). Direct radiography on the other hand involves the use of two techniques; direct and indirect conversion to create digital images for storage or archiving.

Direct conversion involves the use of a photo-conductor to convert X-ray photons used in the digital detectors into electrical charges which adjust the spatial resolution of the image based on the pixel size. Indirect conversion on the other hand involves the use of a light sensitive sensor that records the digital images through a set of linked capacitors. The X-rays are converted into lights which are then later converted into electrical charges that are used to store the digital images (Ramli 460). Direct and indirect conversion as well as computer radiography has played a great role in the technological developments that have taken place in projection radiography where imaging plates used in CR and DR have been converted into flat-panel detectors. The radiography devices which have been introduced into the digital imaging market include photo-conductor drums, direct and indirect DR and charged coupled devices (Vogl and Lehnert, 2011).

Direct radiography has seen the introduction of semiconductors that have been designed to directly convert x-ray energy into electrical signals reducing the need of image plate readers and latent images which were necessary in conventional radiography to read the images. The introduction of solid state detectors also known as selenium drums and also flat panel technology has increased the efficiency of converting X-ray photons into light and then again into electrical charges thereby improving the image’s intensity. The solid state detector technology has made it possible for real time images to be produced through the use of digital detectors and this has proved to be mostly beneficial in orthopaedic and cardiovascular procedures (Vogl and Lehnert, 2011).

Flat panel detector technology has continued to increase in use over the past few years as more and more radiographic equipment incorporates this technology to improve workflow especially within hospitals and to also reduce the dosage of patients. Flat-panel detectors offer a higher degree of flexibility to hospital staff since they have better image qualities when compared to the standard film-screen systems and the storage phosphor systems. Flat-panel detectors basically offer shorter preview times for the digital images since they improve workflow at the same time. This technological development is therefore useful in managing higher patient throughputs and also increasing dose efficiency. The auto-positioning functions which have been incorporated into the flat-panel detectors have also reduced the workload most radiographers had when it came to digital scanning (Vogl and Lehnert, 2011).

Conclusion

Technological advancements in digital radiography are bound to increase in the coming years given the intensity with which most medical institutions have involved the use of digital X-rays in performing several diagnostic procedures amongst patients. The benefits of using digital radiography are many especially for health care practitioners who want real time images of their patient’s conditions while they are performing diagnostic activities. This study has been able to identify the recent developments that have been done in digital x-ray technology and how these developments are bound to affect the efficiency of scanning items.

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