Advances in Veterinary Medicine: The Dawn of Digital Radiography

Advances in Veterinary Medicine:
The Dawn of Digital Radiography

By Dr. Ed Mapes
Stonebridge Animal Hospital
McKinney, Tx

Radiography has taken a major leap forward, and veterinarians now have access to this new digital technology that represents major advances in patient care. Computed Radiography (CR) is a new form of X-ray imaging in which digital sensors capture images instead of traditional photographic film.
After we capture the images on sensors, the information is fed into software that transforms it into visible images on a computer screen. We can manipulate the images to enlarge or hone in on a particle segment for increased clarity. We are able to produce images of incredible acuity with less radiation, and far fewer exposures because the software captures and enhances even poor quality exposures into fantastic images.

Figure 1 below is a very good quality radiograph taken on traditional x-ray film. We would ordinarily be very content with this image.


Figure 1

Figure 1 a good radiograph taken with traditional x-ray film.

Compare the quality of the image above to the enhanced quality of the digital image in Figure 2. This acuity and fine detail reveal disease and injury that were never available before.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 2 illustrates the incredible detail and clarity seen on a digital image of the same patient as figure 1. This quality enables veterinarians to diagnose problems much more accurately.

The need for retakes resulting from over and underexposure is reduced. Images that are too light or dark, formerly discarded with traditional x-ray film, can be manipulated with the image management software. Marginal images can now be optimized, increasing their diagnostic utility. This also makes radiography safer on patients with severe pain or breathing difficulties – with less concern for poor images we can get the exposures taken more quickly.
Digital technology also enables visibility of both soft tissue and bone detail in a single image, reducing the total number of exposures that must be done. Although both can be seen in some standard radiographs, CR offers an advantage in larger patients.
Animals with chronic or progressive disease often need sequential radiographs taken over time to monitor the course of progression success of therapy. Comparison of these images is more accurate with CR than with traditional radiography because they can be manipulated to have the same contrast; comparing apples to apples so to speak.

Digital storage allows quick access and viewing; we simply take a laptop computer into the examination to display the images to clients; no more x-ray film or x-ray viewers. With todays demand for fast information, having access to a digital file offers veterinarians a distinct advantage over retrieving and viewing old style x-ray film. Digital storage allows easy transferability of images via email and easy reproduction. We print out a copy of the images for clients to take home or, better yet, send them by e-mail directly to their computers for storage and viewing.

An image can also be sent electronically, instantly, to a radiology specialist for further evaluation. In emergency situations, this instant consultation with a specialist could be lifesaving for the patient.

New technology is never inexpensive, and some advancements offer greater patient advantages than others. Digital radiography is pricey, but our pets deserve the best medicine we can provide. Veterinarians that make the investment in this new technology automatically become better doctors for their patients.

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