Is upgrading to digital radiography really better than film radiography?
Updated: Apr 21, 2021
X-ray scan is the first procedure requested for diagnosing and screening a variety of health issues including lung problems, bone fractures and other diseases. X-ray technology is easily available to the medical community market due to its low cost. It is non-invasive, relatively harmless, and hastily produces imaging for an effective and accurate diagnostic tool.
We have Film radiography which has been around since late 1890. It uses film to capture images of the body’s internal structures. After some decades, computers were added to this technology. Digital radiography has become a much more efficient, cost effective, and an even safer method for producing diagnostic images.
If film-based X-rays are comparable to film-based photographs, digital x-rays are comparable to digital photographs. Digital x-ray uses a specialized image sensor to capture and display x-rays on a digital device for analysis. With this analogy, we can say that the cost effectiveness of using digital radiography rather than film all boils down to the fact that film is more expensive. If you have a film camera then you’d know that the film itself is costly to purchase and then costly to develop as well.
Of course, film radiography is not obsolete. It has been around for well over a century and has played a vital role in many medical advancements. However, digital radiography is proving to be a safer and more efficient way of producing diagnostic images.
Another reason for upgrading to digital radiography is that it has better quality than the traditional radiography. Film radiography uses film to capture detailed images of the body’s bones, internal organs and foreign bodies. However, this procedure can potentially be subjected to human error because technicians may over expose the patient and the film. On the other hand, with Digital radiography, not only is the quality better, but the technology can display the image itself in just a few seconds. Furthermore, because it is digital, technicians can modify the size without altering any information. The image is immediately processed and immediately be available for viewing, whereas traditional radiography takes time for the film to be developed.
Studies reveal that digital radiography is superior to film radiography because a digital x-ray emits 80% less radiation than the traditional X-ray. The minimal radiation in the traditional radiography is considered safe by many. With that being said, digital film radiography is also considered more “green” than traditional radiography, because it does not require chemicals or film which is disposable in nature and can be harmful to the environment.
Image quality plays a big difference in radiography. A single small detail inside the image can alter the diagnosis for a patient. While traditional film radiography is more than adequate for obtaining high-quality images, digital radiography greatly enhances the image quality. Digital radiography allows you to enhance the sharpness and brightness & contrast of the image created.
This technology can display images in just a few seconds. Due to the images being digital, technicians can modify the size without altering any information. This makes for greater visibility thus giving you clearer insight of the diagnosis.
A major advantage of digital radiography is the ability to change back and forth from dark-on-light imaging to light-on-dark imaging, which increases the visibility of hard-to-see fractures and soft tissues. Digital radiography also allows the radiology technician the option to retake an image immediately. The patient no longer needs to be moved from room to room if the original image does not meet the doctor’s requirements.
Storage space is another thing to consider in comparing digital radiography and traditional radiography. The storage space for Digital X-rays are unlimited because it does not require a film. Since the storage of it is computerized, this drastically saves on storage space needed for keeping the files safe and secure. Film x-rays are often fragile hard copies of the images that requires to be stored in an optimum environment to protect it from any harm. There is a greater risk for these files degrading over time or being accidentally damage. Compared to digital x-rays, since the images are created digitally, they can be easily stored on a computer. The images can be transferred to an external hard drive as well, leaving you plenty of room for new files as well as backups.
Digital radiography technology is now widely available, medical facilities and institutions can easily buy it at relatively low cost. As stated above, digital radiography does not require film to be produced. This means that they are more cost effective than traditional radiography. With traditional x-ray systems, images are chemically developed on film, which means that medical institutions have to constantly invest on film and the chemicals required in developing the images.
Need to forward an image to another facility or department immediately? Digital radiography makes it a lot easier. Unlike the lengthy and expensive ordeal of ordering duplicate copies and waiting for them to be delivered, you can simply share the digital images needed with just your computer. Gone are the days where you have to physically transport images or having to take care of them so that they won’t be damaged en route. With the improvement of the image’s accessibility, we can also improve the speed of the patient’s ongoing treatment process.
The processing speed of digital radiography that allows radiology technicians to produce an image for immediate review is its greatest advantage over the more traditional film radiography systems. The image is captured on a receptor and subsequently transferred to software at a viewing station. The digital image can then be distributed to the associated workstations that would greatly increase the workflow efficiency.
Upgrading into Digital radiography equipment is a necessary investment for medical practitioners who want to enhance their diagnostics and improve their efficiency. Digital radiography is already the industry norm, so whether you are just starting to transition or you are looking to upgrade, the time is now. Patients can get treatment faster, heal quicker and live healthier lives.
Want to see how these different image processing techniques work in radiography? Watch the following videos: