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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 yearly 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 paper’s findings and points of discussion.
Digital x-ray, which is also referred to as digital radiography, is a type of x-ray imaging technology that involves using x-ray sensors in digitally enhancing, altering, or transferring 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 digital files, which can be immediately reviewed once they have been taken. Digital x-rays are mostly used in health care facilities such as clinics and hospitals to scan 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 costs 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 patient’s mouth to gain a visual image of the affected dental structure. Digital radiography is a field 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 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 standard 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 common today when performing examinations such as mammograms, orthopedic examinations, optometric examinations, and 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 used during medical procedures. An example of computer programs that utilize digital radiography is 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 patient’s bone structure. 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 make digital images through the x-rays include electrocardiograms or ECGs, electroencephalograms (EEGs), ultrasound machinery, radiographs, fluorography systems, flat-panel systems, and bone scanning equipment. This equipment incorporates spatial resolution and quantum efficiency to scan and produce images that doctors can use to detect any anomalies in their patients (James et al. 2616).
One of the primary 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 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 computer radiography (CR) and direct radiography (DR). Computer radiography involves image plates made of photostimulable crystal layers that 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 x-ray exposure and be incorporated into already existing radiographic devices (Rowlands 123). On the other hand, direct radiography involves the use of two techniques; direct and indirect conversion to create digital images for storage or archiving.
Direct conversion involves using a photoconductor 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. On the other hand, indirect conversion involves the use of a light-sensitive sensor that records digital images through a set of linked capacitors. The X-rays are converted into lights, which are later converted into electrical charges used to store the digital images (Ramli 460).
Direct and indirect conversion and computer radiography have played a significant 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 introduced into the digital imaging market include photoconductor drums, direct and indirect DR, and charged coupled devices (Vogl and Lehnert 11).
Direct radiography has seen the introduction of semiconductors that have been designed to directly convert x-ray energy into electrical signals reducing the need for image plate readers and latent images, which were necessary for conventional radiography to read the images. The introduction of solid-state detectors, also known as selenium drums and flat-panel technology, has increased the efficiency of converting X-ray photons into the 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 most beneficial in orthopedic and cardiovascular procedures (Vogl and Lehnert 11).
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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 also to reduce the dosage of patients. Flat-panel detectors offer a higher degree of flexibility to hospital staff since they have better image qualities than standard film-screen systems and the storage phosphor systems.
Flat-panel detectors 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 incorporated into the flat-panel detectors have also reduced the workload most radiographers had when it came to digital scanning (Vogl and Lehnert 11).
Technological advancements in digital radiography are bound to increase in the coming years given the intensity with which most medical institutions have involved 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 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.
James, Davies, Cowen, AR. and O’Connor, PJ. Developments in digital radiography: an equipment update. European Radiology, 11.12 (2001): 2616-2626.
Korner, Markus, Christof Weber, Stefan Wirth, Klaus Pfeifer, Maximilian Reiser and Marcus Treitl. Advances in digital radiography: physical principles and system overview. Radio Graphics, 27 (2007): 675-686.
McClellan, James and Dorn, Harold. Science and technology in world history: an introduction. Baltimore, Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press, 2006.
Ramli, Abdullah. Computed and conventional chest radiography: a comparison of image quality and radiation dose. Australas Radiology, 49 (2005):460–466.
Rowlands, Anthony. The physics of computed radiography. Physics in Medicine and Biology, 47.23 (2002):123-166.
Vogl, Thomas and Lehnert, Thomas. Latest advances in digital radiography. Digital Radiography, 2.2 (2007):10-11.
Computer Radiography: Equipment that incorporates the use of an imaging plate to read and digitize an image.
Computerized axial tomography (CAT Scan): A method of medical imaging which incorporates digital geometry processing to create three-dimensional images.
Direct Radiography: Equipment that involves the use of flat panel detectors to process, enhance and digitize an image.
Electrocardiograms: Equipment that is used to interpret the electrical activity in the hear and lungs of an individual.
Electroencephalogram: Equipment that is used to record the electrical activity of a person’s brain.
Flat-panel detectors: Solid state x-ray imaging devices that use sensors a hundred times larger than those of digital cameras to produce digital images.