Computerized Radiography on the Road

The benefits of digital or computerized radiography (CR) have advanced one step further. Not only can veterinarians adjust the sharpness, contrast, and brightness of their X rays on-screen for closer scrutiny, they can also do this quickly and easily while on farm calls. This allows veterinarians to have an immediate, on-site analysis with the owner, farrier, or others making decisions for the horse's care.

Joseph J. Bertone, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, practices with Alpine Animal Hospital in Carbondale, Colo. He has helped test the new IDEXX mobile CR unit since March. "You get used to taking (film) radiographs, but as soon as you get something like this, you realize you can't live without it," said Bertone. "Dr. Chuck Maker and I fight all the time over who's going to take the machine on farm visits," he added.

Many university teaching hospitals and large private referral clinics use CR. Ambulatory practitioners can use these same units, but some practitioners have expressed concern about the images degrading if not processed to computer within an hour. Other veterinarians have had no problem with storing images on plates for up to 24 hours.

Until recently, the in-clinic units have been sizeable investments appropriate for hospitals diagnosing a great volume of horses, but new models that are significantly less expensive will be hitting the market very soon. Completely mobile units as described above are available now, and they come in a price range for smaller veterinary practices and the solo practitioner.

As with the in-clinic systems, practitioners can adjust image brightness and contrast so fewer views are needed for analysis. Also, they can measure angles and type notations on the radiograph.

"All the images are on the laptop, so all I have to do if I want to review old images is open them up," Bertone explained. "I don't have to go back to the office."

Bertone says that after about a year, files on the laptop will be removed to generate space for new ones, but he currently backs the files up daily for safekeeping on a computer at the clinic.

The mobile CR system is about the size of a printer and, according to Bertone, has held up well to the tough life that veterinary equipment endures. The mobile CR unit can be used with any radiography unit, although a high-frequency unit is recommended.

"Right now the quality of the (mobile CR) image is equivalent to film radiography--certainly diagnostic quality--and in the future, as the company develops new image processing software, it will be even better," said Bertone.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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