Digital Radiography Gaining Ground in Vet Practices

Digital radiography, which also is known as computerized radiography (CR), is becoming more common in equine veterinary clinics around the country, writes Stephanie L. Church in the January edition of The Horse. Instead of capturing images on cassettes and requiring the film to be developed in chemicals, CR systems capture information digitally on special plates using a regular X-ray camera.

The plates save the image for only a short time, and must be passed through a processor to permanently store the image in a computer. Since the image degrades 50% in an hour, the CR system is better for a clinical setting than an ambulatory practice.

Veterinarians examine the computerized radiographs on a large screen or work station, and can adjust contrast and brightness. They also can zoom in on problem spots. The images can be printed in X-ray form, with the enhanced version beside the regular radiograph. The whole process takes only about two minutes.

Dr. Alan J. Ruggles of the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, uses the digital technology in at least 90% of his radiographic examinations.

"The value is that we do a lot less retakes," he said. "We can adjust on the exposure, get good detail, and have better resolution."

CR also leaves room for more operator error. "One advantage is that if you shoot (the radiograph) really hot (overexposed), you can use the computer to compensate for it," said Steve Vargas, a CR technician at Rood and Riddle.