Difference in Digital and Conventional Systems in Radiology

Radiology has seen major changes in the last decade. Digital systems are replacing conventional darkroom processing techniques, and film is becoming outdated with the arrival of Picture and Archiving Communications Systems (PACS). 

There is a major difference between these two systems with pros and cons attached to both. Repeats are minimised with digital systems, as image quality can be adjusted. Overexposed images can be manipulated, but underexposed images may be grainy and may have to be repeated. Digital systems have an advantage over conventional systems as it saves the user time. There are no cassettes that have to be processed in a darkroom. All images are produced against a detector. Some machines auto align so the technologist does not have to center the tube to the detector.

Post processing is made easier. Collimation can be adjusted on the system to improve image quality. Markers can be added to the images, and the technologist can write down any comments on the image before sending it over to the radiologist.

The technologist performing the examination finds the digital system more easy to use, especially when he/she has a lot of examinations to perform. Conventional can be time consuming. Digital also allows the user to switch to conventional when required. This gives the user a choice, and helps with difficult patients.

Conventional radiology apart from being time consuming is also a risk to the health of the technologist. Dark room chemicals need to be mixed and spending time in the darkroom can have an adverse effect on the health of the technologist.  Patients are often over radiated due to films being fogged in the darkroom, double exposed cassettes and wrong exposure factors.

The advantages of conventional systems is that it is cheaper, but not in the long run. Digital systems are expensive, and require more maintenance.  Conventional systems also require that film and processing chemicals be ordered every month in the department. Most companies have stopped producing conventional x-ray processing system after the introduction of digital and computed radiology systems.

Digital systems also allow the user to select the patient name from a work list, reducing the number of errors with identification of patients. Conventional systems have a system where the patient name is stamped manually.

The introduction of digital and computed radiology systems have changed the face of radiology forever. Repeats have been reduced to a bare minimum, and image quality has been improved. Technologists still have to be wary about radio graphic technique, but the systems do have benefits in terms of saving time.