June 29, 2017

Part 2: Lacking Grid Usage in Mobile Radiography – A Brief History of Imaging Receptors and Their Weight

We last left off in our discussion of the lack of grid usage in mobile radiography questioning whether the healthcare industry is treating the subject of mobile grid usage with enough care. As the verdict is still out on grid usage, Part 2 of this series will dive deeper into this conversation with an emphasis on grid weight vs. imaging receptor weight. Keep reading as we review a short history of imaging receptors, which will help us gain more insight into the issue at hand.

The term “imaging receptor” is a generic term for any device that can capture an image. During the American Civil War era, images were captured with glass plates in a non-diagnostic setting. From there diagnostic imaging was born and played a very useful and necessary role in healthcare.

After corrections to the material makeup of imaging receptors, we have arrived at what some of us still use today – conventional cassettes, also called film or analog cassettes. These analog cassettes can weigh between 2 to 3 lbs., are very robust, and are reasonably priced.

Once computed radiography came to the scene, it brought with it CR cassettes. These imaging receptors are still relatively lightweight, being about the same weight as their analog predecessors, but they are double the cost, and they are half as robust.

With CR cassettes, hospital departments are faced with the dilemma of repairing or replacing these cassettes frequently. The extra cost is offset by increased turnaround time – the more patients that can be seen in a day, the more revenue that can be generated by that hospital department.

Digital radiography is the newest technology available for radiologists. This technology does not require the extra step of processing the imaging receptor to get the radiograph from a latent image to the monitor. This (in theory) speeds up workflow efficiency and the technology itself (software and hardware) increases image quality.

One problem which is rarely brought up, however, is weight. A Digital Radiography (DR) panel can weigh on average 6 lbs. or more.

With DR panels, we now have a technology that is double the weight of analog cassettes, it is loaded with electronics that can easily break if dropped, and the cost per piece is exorbitantly higher. However, workflow efficiency is indeed increased and hospital departments are able to see more patients in a day.

There seems to be a trend taking shape within the healthcare industry regarding technological advances. Are the decision makers in the industry placing patient turnaround times and technological ease in front of user ease? Ask any radiographer who has used multiple technologies which IR was easier to lift and how important that is on morning portables.

Stay tuned for Part 3 where we continue to dive deeper into this discussion to explore why grid emulation software is promoted over hardware – and whether the reasons for it are legitimate.