Digital radiography seeks to reduce the exposure to artificial radiation through diagnostic imaging. Although digital imaging has been around since the 1970s, major advances have been made in the last decade. As technology improves, the amount of radioactive material required for clear imaging decreases.
Digital radiography offers increased capabilities as compared with conventional radiography, such as post-processing, electronic archiving, concurrent access to images, and improved data distribution. Operators of digital images can vary exposure level within certain parameters without influencing the visual quality of the images, thus reducing radiation dose.
Advantages of digital imaging include ability to “develop” images within seconds as opposed to the several hours it used to take to develop x-ray films. The speed helps patient care as well as contributes to work place efficiency. The other advantage to using digital imaging is that healthcare practitioners can view the images on any computer.
Images are encrypted in a “Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS),” a password protected secure system, helpful in case of a natural disaster or sudden relocation as patient medical records can be accessed remotely.
In addition to quick storage options, digital images are also easily shared. This can be done over a local area network (LAN) within a hospital or healthcare facility, or just as easily shared within a global network. Images can be quickly retrieved with imaging software such as Adobe Photoshop. This allows quick edits, such as the removal of dust spots or blurry areas.
Digital Imaging has particularly impacted the following areas of medical imaging:
Computed Tomography (CT) Angiography
“CT angiography is one of the greatest advances in imaging,” says Jonathan Lewin, MD, chairman of the department of radiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.
It is only recently that Angiography – the examination of the blood vessels – can be done by injecting a contrast agent. Previous to this, a lengthy and complicated procedure that involved catheterization and several hours of x-rays was required to see anything in the veins.
“In the past, we had to do surgery just to see what was going on inside the body,” says Hillman, a professor of radiology at the University of Virginia. “But CT scans, MR scans, and ultrasound have become so good that they have largely done away with the need for the surgical approach.”
PET/CT Scans for Cancer
PET (positron emission tomography) has been around for several decades, however, it is only recently that it has been combined with CT scans. PET scans are designed to look at biological functions, like metabolic processes or blood flow.
“PET is able to pick up the metabolic changes associated with cancer much earlier than you could see tumors or other physical changes in the organs,” says Lewin. “By fusing PET and CT, you get to see both the metabolic information of PET and the anatomic detail of CT at once. It’s a big advance.”
“Digital mammography for breast cancer screening is a significant leap forward, it gives us a much higher level of detail than older technology,” remarks Dr. Lewin. According to a study published within The New England Journal of Medicine, digital mammography was found to be more accurate for some women, with immediate and accurate exams.
As medical imaging technology continues to advance, it is important to stay informed of the latest treatments so that your healthcare can become simpler and easier. Schedule your exam today and benefit!