Slumping economics extend CR appeal, drive down costs for DR

December 8, 2009

Interest in computed and digital radiography was booming among vendors at RSNA 2009, as traditional providers of turnkey systems and components showed portfolios designed to appeal to cost-conscious buyers.

Interest in computed and digital radiography was booming among vendors at RSNA 2009, as traditional providers of turnkey systems and components showed portfolios designed to appeal to cost-conscious buyers.

Computed radiography has had the inside track on cost-effectiveness since interest in digital x-ray began to develop a decade ago. Transforming installed systems from film to digital overnight with nothing more than the installation of a boxlike reader and a set or two of phosphor plates has led to the enduring appeal of this modality. Long-time providers Agfa, Carestream, Fuji, and Konica, along with some lesser known firms, continued their support of the modality, touting software updates or whole new products that offered smaller footprints, faster processing, or both.

For several years, the major vendors of CR had been dabbling in flat-panel products in an effort to provide customers with a full line of offerings. Carestream’s product unveiled this year, the DRX-Evolution, exemplified their evolving strategy to cover as many bases as possible.

The fixed radiography suite, which was commercially launched in October, is built around the company’s wireless DR detector, the DRX-1. Previously Carestream had been marketing the digital detector as part of a digital upgrade for installed analog systems. The turnkey product includes components designed to complement the operation of the digital detector, whose wireless design allows its use in both the table and the wall stand.

The number of DR systems could explode if component makers such as the French firm Thales, Japanese company Canon, and U.S. company Varian get their way. Volume is the key to lower costs and these companies were focused at RSNA 2009 on driving demand with a wide range of flat panels. But, in some cases, they also proffered the means to easily integrate the flat panels into end-user products.

Thales offered up its new PrestoDR, comprising one or two flat-panel detectors, a digital workstation, and interfaces that would make the construction of a DR system a snap. The new Duet DRF 4343 provides a similar set up for companies wanting to make systems for fluoroscopy, angiography, and general radiography.

But it was a relative newcomer to the industry, Edge Medical, that captured the essence of DR frugality. The Israeli company brought a flat-panel detector designed specifically as part of a kit for retrofitting film-based x-ray systems in the installed base. Others brought similar products, Carestream’s DRX-1, for example, and Canon’s portfolio of flat panels suited to retrofit. Even Fuji showed, as a work-in-progress, a flat-panel DR cassette called D-EVO. But Edge had taken a different tack.

Its DR detector uses a plasma-based device to record and transmit the electrical signals captured in the plate’s amorphous selenium covering. The plasma reader serves in place of the expensive and difficult-to-fabricate thin-film transistors used by most other makers of detectors.

Edge hopes to tap into what executives believe is an enormous pent-up demand, particularly in Europe and Asia, for a low-cost DR retrofit. A goal of the company at the meeting was to attract value-added resellers, integrators, and OEMs, so as to build worldwide distribution of the retrofit kit.