X-Ray Buying Tips
Updated: Feb 16
For many years now, X-ray machines have played a major role in the health industry, providing doctors and other specialists with images crucial to making accurate diagnoses. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a clinic or hospital without an X-ray system in its facility!
Although most health practitioners would agree on the importance of having X-ray machines, choosing and buying one is a different matter altogether. There is a wide variety of X-ray machines available -- each with its own features, design, and purpose. Getting a new system can be a daunting task; fortunately, we have taken the liberty of simplifying it for you!
Here are some important things to consider before choosing and buying an X-ray machine:
1. Field of Application
Aside from general diagnostic X-ray machines, there are other types of X-ray systems, depending on the field of application. These include angiography machines, mammography machines, dental X-ray systems, and C-arms, which are typically used in surgical procedures. Knowing which type you need is the first major step towards purchasing an X-ray machine.
2. Mounting Type
The main component of an X-ray machine is the tube, which can be positioned or mounted in different ways: floor-mounted, ceiling-mounted, or as a portable unit. Let us take a closer look at each category:
a. Portable X-Ray Machines
For single-physician clinics, family practices, or chiropractic clinics, a portable X-ray machine would be the ideal option. These units are usually easier to operate and maneuver, low-powered, and more affordable, too. Portable units could also serve as back-up X-ray machines in a larger setting, such as community clinics and hospitals.
b. Floor-Mounted X-Ray Machines
For health facilities with a relatively higher or constant number of caseloads, a floor-mounted X-ray machine is essential. For this, you are going to need a designated room wherein the machine can be installed. Although fixed to the floor, these units come in varying degrees of flexibility, with mobile tables, tube stands, and other features. A fixed table, straight arm, and U-arm are just some of the specific types that fall under the floor-mounted category.
Compared to portable units, floor-mounted X-ray machines can be used for a wider variety of procedures. Inevitably, though, they involve more powerful generators than portable units.
c. Ceiling-Mounted X-Ray Systems
For high-volume facilities, such as hospitals and orthopedic clinics, a ceiling-mounted X-ray system is the ideal choice. As the term implies, the tube and collimator are suspended from the ceiling in this kind of system.
Compared to portable and floor-mounted units, a ceiling-mounted X-ray system involves higher costs. On the other hand, it also allows for a greater variety of procedures, and is considered as the most versatile among the three mounting type categories.
3. Patient Table
The patient table is another important part of an X-ray machine. It comes in different types including: (a) 2-way floating tables, which move in two directions; (b) 4-way floating tables, which move in four directions; (c) tilting and elevating tables (d) fixed or (e) portable tables; All of these could come with automatic exposure control, which limit the amount of X-ray exposed to patients. Among these, the 4-way floating table is considered the most common type used in diagnostic facilities.
Each type of patient table offers a varied range of movement and procedures. Other than the structure, another important feature of the table is load capacity. Most systems are capable of handling body weights up to 200 kilograms; still, there are those that can withstand weights up to 300 kilograms and even higher!
4. Wall Bucky Stand
The wall bucky stand is a part of the X-ray machine that moves the grid and holds cassettes or detectors during exposure. Just like the patient table, it comes in different types and features, including those with automatic exposure control, tilting capabilities, motorized movement, and even remote-controlled movement as optional features, depending on your preferences.
Typically, the wall bucky stand comes with a grid that assists in removing scattered radiation. Another optional feature would be for the wall bucky stand and tube movement to be synchronized, which is particularly helpful in hospitals and facilities that have a high number of caseloads.
5. Generator Type
The generator type and power capacity depend on the kind of X-ray machine to be used. Typically, a portable X-ray unit operates on 5KW systems, whereas a stationary X-ray machine used in most hospitals requires 40KW to 80KW systems.
When it comes to generator power specifications, the key thing to remember is that the more powerful the generator, the lesser the exposure time required. As a result, the amount of radiation patients are exposed to is also lessened.
6. Acquisition System
So far, we have talked about structure-related parts of an X-ray machine. This time, let us focus on another major component: the acquisition system. Generally speaking, this is the part of an X-ray machine that is responsible for acquiring and processing images.
There are two major types of acquisition systems available nowadays: cassette readers, which are used in Computed Radiography (CR), and flat panel detectors (FPD), which are used in digital radiography (DR). It is worth noting that in computed radiography, cassette-based phosphor storage plates are scanned into a digital format for processing, storage, and presentation. Meanwhile, in digital radiography, the entire procedure is digitized where images are processed without the need of scanning the detector.
Here is a quick comparison of the two types of acquisition systems, in terms of speed, size, handling and maintenance:
Usually, a cassette reader takes an average of one to two minutes to acquire and process an image. A flat panel detector, on the other hand, takes only 2-6 seconds to process an image.
b. Cassette or Detector Size
Usually there are three sizes available in computed radiography systems or Flat Panel Detector (FPD) DR systems. These are 14 inches x 17 inches, 11 inches x 14 inches and10 inches x 12 inches. In DR systems, the most commonly used size is the14 inches x 17 inches wireless model. Still, there are also tethered or wired options, usually available in 17 inches x 17 inches dimensions.
c. Cassette or Detector Handling
FPD DR systems are generally easier to handle and have more advanced features like image storage, automatic exposure detection, access point mode, shock proofing and water and dust protection. Meanwhile, CR cassettes must be handled with care, since they could easily get damaged if dropped accidentally from a certain distance.
CR Systems are cheaper, but are usually more expensive to maintain due to wear and tear of its parts such as the gears, belts, laser steering and eraser assemblies. FPD DR Systems, on the other hand does not contain mechanical parts and is therefore more durable.
As you can see, there is a wide range of X-ray machines available today, with different features and systems. By keeping the above list in mind, you can start to search, compare, and eventually choose an X-ray system that best suits your particular needs and preferences.