Radiography is simply the scientific term for the methods used to take diagnostic images of structures inside the body, including computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and x-rays. Just as digital photography has made taking photographs on film all but obsolete, so is digital x-ray imaging gradually replacing traditional plain film x-rays as the preferred know method of taking pictures of bones and other hard internal body structures.
Advantages of Digital X-Rays
Traditional x-ray film is contained within a cassette, and once the images have been taken, the cassette must be manually carried over to a film reader that processes the images. Digital radiography directly captures the data on plates that are sensitive to x-rays and then immediately transfers the information obtained into the computer system. This process takes less time, exposes the patient to less radiation, and dispenses with the potentially hazardous chemicals required to develop film. The time savings and decreased risk to patients and radiologists alike makes digital radiography an attractive alternative to traditional x-ray imaging.
The images produced from digital radiography are far superior than those produced by plain films, and the fact that they are computerized makes them easy to enhance digitally without needing to take new images.
Another attractive advantage of digital radiography is that images can instantly be sent electronically to a different facility for review without arranging for physical transportation of the films, which can be expensive, time consuming, and inconvenient due to the necessity of preserving confidentiality.
Know the Roadblocks to Implementation
Despite these advantages, however, digital x-rays have not supplanted plain films as quickly as one might expect. This is because digital radiography is expensive to implement. Maintenance of the digital imaging system also costs more money than maintenance of traditional x-ray machines. Some hospitals and clinics find that the limited savings to be gained from dispensing with x-ray film and storing images digitally does not justify the expense of adopting digital radiography.
Despite these setbacks, many hospitals and clinics feel that the benefits to patients and providers alike make adopting digital radiography a worthwhile investment. Others choose to outsource digital x-rays to independent radiographic facilities.