When a veterinarian wants to take the leap from analog X-ray to digital imaging, the decision usually comes down to one central question: Computed radiography (CR) or direct digital radiography (DR)?
A growing number of veterinarians have found that CR systems are becoming an easy, viable and—at about half the price of DR systems—more affordable way to enter the digital world.
CR systems use a phosphor plate, instead of film, to capture images. The cassette is inserted into a CR reader, which scans the plate and produces a digital image on a computer screen. (Some lower-end systems require manual removal of the imaging plate before the plate is scanned.) The image can be manipulated, e-mailed, archived and printed.
DR systems, which usually use flat-panel detectors either retrofitted to an X-ray table or included in a new X-ray table, skip the secondary processing step and produce an image directly from the panel. But for some veterinarians, especially those with start-up practices, the expense can be a deal breaker.
Practice manager Lisa Jendrasek jokingly calls herself a bona-fide expert after her extensive research exploring systems for Deer Run Animal Hospital in Schererville, Ind.
“Digital radiography was way too expensive for our young practice. CR is just fine and we love it!” she says.
The practice purchased its Konica Minolta ImagePilot all-in-one CR/PACS system in March for about $40,000. A DR system would have cost around $100,000, Jendrasek figures.
She says the CR system is easy to use and produces clear images within two minutes or so with no chemicals and no wasting of film. Actual imaging speed will vary depending on the make and model, with acquisition time as low as 30 seconds.
Being able to give clients a CD and send them on their way was the icing on the cake, she says.
The system was up and running the same day it was installed in the clinic. Jendrasek still calls it their “new little toy.”
A lot of hype exists about DR, but CR systems are still a great option for many veterinarians who want to convert to digital, says Steve Eisner, senior marketing manager at Konica Minolta Medical Imaging.
“Just because CR has been around longer doesn’t mean that it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do,” he notes. “Flat-panel detectors are not only expensive but come with a huge repair bill when problems arise.”
John Endres, DVM, calls his CR system “the natural fit” for his solo practice, Compassionate Care Veterinary Hospital in Manlius, N.Y., which he opened in 2008.
“We really wanted to get away from the [film developing] chemicals,’’ he says, noting that he’s saving money and headaches by avoiding a dark room, disposal fees and environmental issues.
“And with having the [mobile] plate system, instead of a fixed digital sensor on the table that we would be locked into, we have some flexibility with the animal.”
He acknowledges that the DR systems are faster but says his CR system is fast enough for his purposes. “We really didn’t sacrifice too much as far as time.”
Dr. Endres’ advice?
Do your homework and talk to plenty of people to help navigate the ever-growing field of CR systems on the market. He opted for the ImagePilot.
Take your time and learn, he says. Don’t be in a rush to go after the “latest and greatest.”
Realize that comparing film to digital images is like comparing apples to oranges. Be sure to compare digital to digital to get an accurate assessment.
And be sure to look into local servicing.
“We wanted to make sure we worked with someone who had good local representation, Endres says. “We have had a very good response.”
Training was a piece of cake, he says. All that’s needed is to become familiar with the software.
The technique of shooting a radiograph is the same, Endres says, and the digital reader does all the work.
“This is the wave of the future,” he says. “Film is going to be going away. By default, systems will be all digital in the future.”
This Education Series story was underwritten by Konica Minolta Medical Imaging USA Inc. of Wayne, N.J.