Digital radiography is a form of radiography that uses x-ray–sensitive plates to directly capture data during the patient examination, immediately transferring it to a computer system without the use of an intermediate cassette. Advantages include time efficiency through bypassing chemical processing and the ability to digitally transfer and enhance images. Also, less radiation can be used to produce an image of similar contrast to conventional radiography.
Instead of X-ray film, digital radiography uses a digital image capture device. This gives advantages of immediate image preview and availability; elimination of costly film processing steps; a wider dynamic range, which makes it more forgiving for over- and under-exposure; as well as the ability to apply special image processing techniques that enhance overall display quality of the image. What does this mean for equine digital radiography?
The availability of equine digital radiography has significantly improved the quality of the “x-ray” images we can acquire. It has also allowed routine radiography of areas which were previously almost impossible to get useful images of in the horse (for example abdominal radiography). The superior quality and the ability to manipulate the images allow us to assess and diagnose problems that previously would have been much more difficult to accurately identify.
As veterinarians, it is our job to be familiar with normal radiographic anatomy. We also need to be familiar with the specific radiographic patterns of different clinical disorders. Radiographs help us either make a recommendation for the treatment and management of a horses’ condition or make a recommendation for further diagnostic imaging.
The digital images can be shared quickly and easily if a specialist or second opinion is appropriate.
In addition to the convenience mentioned previously, Equine Digital X-ray and Ultrasound has some unique features that are especially valuable to us:
Instant Image Viewing
Rather than developing x-rays as we used to, the images now appear on the laptop screen within seconds of taking an x-ray.
A diagnosis is reached quicker, and we can show you exactly what we are seeing on the x-rays.
Non-diagnostic pictures can be instantly retaken
At Valley Equine Vet Centre we have a designated radiography room with a powerful ceiling mounted digital X-ray generator and both computerised and digital radiography units. This allows us to obtain high quality images of larger, wider and more dense regions of the horse’s body such as the shoulder, chest, abdomen, back, neck and pelvis on larger plates to get an adequate field of view. It is usually not possible to achieve diagnostic images of these regions with smaller hand-held or frame mounted X-ray machines.
Despite the fact the adult equine abdomen can be difficult to image, we can produce excellent pictures which allow us to diagnose some causes of colic, foreign bodies and sand accumulation in the large intestine.
One area in which digital radiography equipment for equines has proved especially useful is working with farriers, especially on horses and ponies with laminitis. We can now liaise with your farrier with the x-ray machine, and instantly show them the changes going on within your horse’s foot. This is invaluable in letting your farrier do the best job possible. Furthermore, x-rays can be taken after trimming, so that any necessary further changes can be made, ensuring that your horse’s foot trimming and shoeing is perfect.
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