Advances in radiography continue full steam ahead, with more streamlined products that allow veterinarians to take better X-rays while saving time and money. No one knows the exact numbers, but it’s safe to say the majority of veterinarians have made the switch to digital radiography.
“I have had a few veterinarians call and say they are still hand-dipping film,” said Jeanne Walter, CVT, veterinary products manager for MinXray Inc. of Northbrook, Ill. “In the smaller practices, until recently it hasn’t been achievable because their caseload isn’t high enough. There are still those who are waiting to change to digital.
“Most veterinarians I talk to, if they are not there yet, they are excited to be able to afford the new technology ” she said.
Cheaper and Better
Now is a great time to invest in a new digital radiology system. In the 15 or so years since digital X-rays hit the veterinary scene, the cost has fallen considerably. A system that once may have cost $100,000 may be just $50,000 today. The newer unit likely comes with enhanced software and seamless integration, among other features.
“Digital X-ray technology has evolved over the years in multiple ways that help enhance productivity, reduce operating costs and improve workflow efficiencies,” said Eddie Massetti, national manager of channel sales for Fujifilm Medical Systems USA in Stamford, Conn. “For starters, image quality today is better than ever. High-resolution capabilities and fewer retakes means faster, more valuable exams.
“DR technology offers additional advances, including high-speed exams and low radiation dose,” he added.
Mark Skeels, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, a senior partner at Cuattro, a Loveland, Colo., manufacturer, believes the biggest development in digital radiology is with systems integration.
“This could be with the practice management system, or the X-ray generator controls, or the digital flat panel, or even the remote archival systems in the cloud … and integrations with telemedicine providers,” Dr. Skeels said.
“Integrations and automation of cloud-based image- management systems is essential to maintain the efficiency needed in today’s busy practices,” he said. “It is not enough to take an image and look at it on the workstation.”
Small, Fast and Wireless
Companies are developing lighter, faster, battery-powered units with enhanced wireless capability, giving practitioners more mobility and the freedom to take X-rays just about anywhere.
MinXray’s TR90B battery-powered X-ray generator and Enduras Wireless’ battery-powered portable DR system are designed for equine veterinarians and anyone else who works with animals in the field.
“It allows imaging anywhere regardless of power availability,” Walter said. “A lot of equine veterinarians, a lot of zoos … it’s difficult to bring all of their patients into a clinic.
“Imagine an equine practitioner getting to a call with a lame horse and the horse is stuck out in a field,” she added. “They could take images right there, on the spot, and have a diagnosis.”
Fujifilm’s FDR-flex battery-powered DR system is portable, compact and lightweight. The system, also designed for equine and mixed-animal environments, may be used with Fujifilm’s wireless FDR D-EVO panels, which deliver high-quality images while lowering the radiation dose.
“Our patented ISS (irradiated side sampling) captures the X-ray image from the incident/patient side of the detector versus traditional designs, which capture the image below the scintillator layer,” Massetti said. “The result is a reduction in the distance for light to spread, allowing the image to be captured where it’s sharper and stronger.”
One of Cuattro’s newest digital systems is the Uno 6, which combines the acquisition, review and archiving of images into a single wireless unit ideal for equine practitioners.
“It is an X-ray generator that fully communicates with a built-in DR software workstation and a wireless flat-panel detector and PACS system—all in a single, battery-powered, 16-pound handheld device,” Skeels said. “The device automatically selects the next view to take, sets the X-ray generator technique, captures the image and displays it on the screen so the user can quickly confirm the quality and position before moving to the next view. The user’s only responsibility is to point and shoot.”
Cuattro in 2016 also launched the Slate 6 wireless imager, which has a 16-inch high-definition display, wireless connectivity and multitouch capability, allowing a veterinarian to pinch, swipe and rotate an image.
“Wireless technology is a complicated science,” Skeels said. “The early configurations provided wire-free use, but they were not robust enough for field use.
“Gone are the days of the user wondering if the system would connect and work in the field,” he said.
Radiology on the Roll
Back in the clinic, the future of radiography is on the move, literally. Veterinarians can enjoy greater freedom within the hospital using devices such as Opta, a digital imaging system built onto a rolling cart.
“When we first started selling [Opta], we got a lot of quizzical looks, but now that we’ve got some installed, the feedback has been phenomenal,” said Randy Laufersky, president of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Core. “There’s no reason to have a room relegated to just X-rays.
“If you take a look at revenue per square foot, an exam room at a fairly busy clinic can generate close to $600 an hour,” Laufersky said. “Even at the busiest clinic, the most an X-ray room can generate is $200 an hour. It’s one of the least profitable rooms in the clinic. Now you can take that space and do something different with it.”
Opta plugs into a 110-volt outlet and may be moved anywhere in the clinic, so the X-ray unit may be taken to the patient instead of the other way around.
“[With a tethered unit], if a dog is in surgery and you want it to have an X-ray, you have to take it out of a sterile environment, put it on a gurney, wheel that animal down the hall, carry it over to the X-ray table, take the shot, take it off the X-ray table, put it back onto the gurney, take it off the gurney and back onto the surgery table,” Laufersky said. “With ours, you just put the plate under [the patient] and 12 seconds later you have an image.”
Looking to the Future
Industry experts anticipate digital radiology equipment to continue on its evolutionary path, becoming even sleeker, faster, safer and more affordable.
“I would expect that we would be seeing more sensitive DR panels, maybe that don’t take even the dose that our panels do today, so we can reduce our X-ray exposure,” said MinXray’s Walter. “We may see even lighter systems, maybe longer battery life and higher power available from the battery.”
Skeels, from Cuattro, believes that high-definition detectors of the future will allow users to capture raw data detail that even today’s sophisticated software cannot reveal.
“Digital radiology will continue to see reduction in costs, increased cloud-based archival, software upgrade paths, image sharing and further enhancements of acquisition software,” he said.
Raising the Bar on X-ray tables
MyVet Imaging, a division of Rayence Inc., recently launched what it called the veterinary market’s first elevating digital radiographic table system. The table lowers far enough to accommodate large dogs, according to the company.
“The table silently drops to the floor to load your great Danes, Saint Bernards or other large breeds without the risk of a back injury to yourself or your staff,” said Ryan Everhart, manager of international business development at MyVet Imaging of Fort Lee, N.J.
The motors are designed to be noise-free so as not to startle animals when the table is raising or lowering. The system is powered by a 32-kilowatt generator and a cesium digital X-ray detector.
Originally published in the January 2017 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today!