Digital x-ray finally gains traction -- a decade late

November 1, 2007

Demand for digital x-ray is soaring, about 10 years later than most industry insiders predicted. Better late than never, for sure, but the reasons behind the rise of this class of products are as much economic as technological. Volume sales are bringing down the price of digital x-ray systems, just as the adoption of PACS is making digital radiography more a need than a want. Vendors are responding with more powerful equipment bearing attractive prices.

Demand for digital x-ray is soaring, about 10 years later than most industry insiders predicted. Better late than never, for sure, but the reasons behind the rise of this class of products are as much economic as technological. Volume sales are bringing down the price of digital x-ray systems, just as the adoption of PACS is making digital radiography more a need than a want. Vendors are responding with more powerful equipment bearing attractive prices.

A growing number of high-end systems that integrate diagnosis and treatment delivery are coming to market. At the RSNA meeting, industry leaders and competitors will tout new features they've added to address demands for improved dose and motion control, as well as mobility and compactness. Premium offerings include systems and services for fully integrating digital and other images and records within healthcare institutions.

Agfa HealthCare will emphasize the power of its MUSICA2 algorithms to optimize computed radiography images. Gathering those data will be a wide range of CR systems, including the CR 30-X, a compact tabletop device. Also showcased at the Agfa booth will be the DX-Si, a CR system featuring an image identification and quality control tool, intuitive interface, and integrated x-ray source. The versatile system is built for general radiography, as well as emergency and pediatric departments.

Canon Medical Systems will demonstrate high-performance detectors, including its CXDI-40EG and CXDI-40EC, which can be mounted in a table or wall stand. Units feature an imaging area of 17 x 17 inches. The company will show the lightweight CXDI-50G DR, with a 14 x 17-inch imaging area, and the CXDI-50C DR, which is optimized for pediatric and orthopedic patients.

Carestream Health will showcase its DR 9500, a digital radiography system with x-ray tube and detector fixed to a ceiling-mounted U-arm. The system, which has already begun shipping, is built for flexibility, leveraging its U-arm to move around the patient for easier patient positioning and increased throughput.

Fujifilm Medical Systems USA will seek to remold the community's perception of digital radiography, which views CR and DR as distinct on the basis of their detectors. Fuji argues that the end result, a digital image created efficiently, should be the common denominator. Toward that end, the company will show its latest developments in phosphor-based detection, integrating this technology in turnkey configurations that will compete with DR systems based on flat-panel detectors.

GE Healthcare will likely feature its Definium family of digital x-ray products. The Definium 5000, with its large area 41 x 41-cm detector mounted on a U-arm, takes minimal space, suiting the unit particularly to radiology and orthopedic clinics.

Philips will extend its Eleva platform and user interface across all radiography and fluoroscopy systems, providing a standardized workflow for x-ray users with state-of-the-art IT technology and embedded security standards. Eleva-based systems presented at RSNA 2007 will include the DigitalDiagnost, Philips's high-end DR solution, as well as its portable x-ray unit Practix Convenio DR, which will be shown with a work-in-progress wireless DR detector.

Siemens Medical Solutions will emphasize versatility in its Axiom Luminos DRF, a remote radiography/fluoroscopy system outfitted with a dynamic flat-panel detector optimized for fluoro imaging of obese patients. The company will also highlight its Axiom Aristos FX, upgraded last year to the Plus version.

Radlink will feature a cost-efficient, low-maintenance CR that delivers high-resolution diagnostic images. Shimadzu will show its direct conversion flat-panel detectors as part of an extensive line of x-ray equipment. Analog and digital products run the gamut from ceiling-suspended systems to R/F units.

Swissray International will show its ddRCompact series of digital radiography systems, cleared earlier this year by the FDA. The new series of products features a highly efficient patient positioning system and algorithms for stitching together images taken over extended orthopedic examinations. The company will promote the series as high-quality products for cost-constrained facilities, particularly outpatient clinics trying to cope with the effects of the Deficit Reduction Act.

Toshiba America Medical Systems will display as a work-in-progress a low-contrast imaging feature for its Infinix products. The new feature will allow CT-like imaging on soft tissues at the point of treatment.

Ziehm Imaging Group will feature its high-end Vision 3D C-arm, released earlier this year as part of the Vision line of products. The company will focus on high image quality at the lowest possible dose, achieved through real-time motion detection and image optimization through noise reduction algorithms.

Imaging3 will feature its Dominion system, a cost-effective mobile diagnostic imaging device using an O-shaped gantry to acquire 3D images. Dominion emulates CT performance yet supports standard fluoroscopy.

Quantum Medical Imaging will highlight features of its digital universal radiographic systems shown at last year's RSNA meeting. Special attention will be focused on a new in-room touch-panel control that includes digital image preview.