Every day our team talks with people that tell us they want to start using digital X-ray but that they need to go digital at or below a certain price point. The good news for all of these people is that there is more than one way to go digital, and each method can accommodate a different price point as well as meet a different set of needs.
Take a look at the digital X-ray options below to begin building an idea of what might be the best fit for your facility's next solution.
Option 1: CR Reader
The least expensive way to take your current analog X-ray system digital is to purchase a CR reader to go with it. You take your shots on a specialized CR cassette, feed it through your reader, and voila - you have a digital image.
A CR reader is the least expensive option - even more so if you take advantage of the wide availability of used systems. CR is also certainly much faster and more cost-effective than film processing. It is, however, the least time-efficient method of going digital due to the time it takes to transport and scan the cassettes.
Examples: AGFA 15X, Carestream Directview Vita, Konica 190 (pictured right)
Average Price Range: $12,000 - $15,000 Used, $19,000 - $27,000 New
Option 2: Digital X-ray System
On the other end of the spectrum is a factory-born digital radiography (DR) unit. These are, by far, the most expensive way to go digital. They offer big advantages over CR in terms of image processing times. There are no cassettes involved and the time between image acquisition and complete digital rendering on the physician workstation is a matter of seconds. There can also be an appreciable image quality benefit in using a fully digital room as opposed to an analog room with a CR.
Image quality and acquisition time are comparable between factory DR systems and analog systems retrofitted with DR panels (option 3). The primary advantage a factory system holds over a retrofit is that many models feature automated movements that can further streamline the overall efficiency of an X-ray room in moving patients through as expeditiously as possible.This option is generally only cost-effective for facilities with exceptionally high patient volume and fairly thick budgets.
Examples: GE XR/D (pictured right), GE Definium 8000, Siemens Ysio
Average Price Range: $125,000 - $160,000 Used, $150,000 - $200,000 New
Option 3: Retrofit Analog X-Ray with a Digital Detector
In our experience working with X-ray buyers from a wide variety of needs and budgets, this option is, more often than not, the most cost-effective. DR detector retrofits work with any X-ray system and, like a factory DR sytem, they eliminate cassettes, improve image quality, and acquire and render images in seconds. Like a CR reader, they allow you to continue using your existing X-ray room without the need to remove large pieces of equipment or remodel your room.
DR detectors are also available in several styles:
Fixed Detectors: The detector is installed into the chest stand of the existing system. An excellect option for chiropractic X-ray rooms or in combination with a second detector in the table tray. A dual-detector setup eliminates the need to swap the detector between procedures.
Tethered Detectors: The detector is movable from the chest stand to the table, depending on which type of shot you need. It communicates with the workstation through a single cable. This option is a good fit for low-mid volume facilites where moving the detector will be relatively minimal.
Wireless Detectors: The detector is powered by a battery and communicates with the workstation wirelessly. It is free to move between chest stand and table and even to be used with a portable X-ray traveling around a facility. Wireless is a good fit for mid-high volume facilities or facilities that frequently use portable X-ray systems.
Other than the panel itself (the same size as a cassette) the only new pieces a retrofit kit brings into your space are a computer (desktop or laptop options available), a control box about the size of a wifi router, and - if your panel is wireless - a battery charger.
As we mentioned earlier, the automation offered by some factory DR models can bring even more efficiency to the table, but the volume and performance needs of most facilities are well-met at the price point of a DR detector retrofit.
Examples: Vivix S (pictured right), AGFA DX-D Series
Average Price Range: $27,500 - $65,000 (prices vary by brand, size, and type)
Whenever you're ready to upgrade from analog X-ray to digital, you certainly won't be locked into any single option. Whether your needs and budget have you leaning toward a CR, a retrofit, or a full replacement, there is a solution that can take your X-ray capabilities to the next level affordably.
If you'd like to start an upgrade conversation today, you can contact our X-ray product specialists to talk the options over. If you'd like to learn more about the options on your own, you can check out any of our other free resources to do so:• Download the Digital X-Ray Conversion Guide
Written by Tim Mustapha
Tim Mustapha is the Product Manager for X-Ray Equipment at Block Imaging. Along with product knowledge and industry insight, he strives to bring his passion for building working relationships to every project he’s part of. When he’s not helping people make great equipment decisions, Tim loves spending time with his wife and 5 children, playing sports, and geeking out on Star Wars.