Hospital installs new radiology equipment

Digital imaging replaces conventional X-ray films

Staff reporter

The traditional way to perform medical diagnosis has ended.

At Hillsboro Community Medical Center, technology has taken another giant leap.

Computed radiography is up and running at the medical center, which means within 30 days X-ray images will be digital instead of on film.

The traditional way to process images for diagnostic and other forms of treatment was to take the X-ray and develop the film. The new way is to use a cassette with a plate which is read by a computer and then stored digitally.

"This means less radiation exposure and the image is available much quicker," Mike Ryan, chief executive officer of HCMC, said.

With the new technology comes a cost-savings to the hospital because the cassettes can be reused thousands of times before being replaced.

Next on the technical launching pad is the installation of PACS (Picture Archival and Communication System) within the next 30 days, which will be the method of storing X-ray images of patients.

"With the traditional method, images are sent to a laser printer," Ryan said. With PACS, the images will go to a server at the hospital and off-site as a backup.

Another time-saving change is with digital imaging, radiologists at Emporia can read the X-ray images via a secure connection to the hospital's server.

"Images will be read daily," Ryan said, and trauma cases can be read immediately.

For technicians Billie Kueser and Phyllis Landis, the new equipment means a sharper image and faster development.

When the X-ray is taken, the image of the X-ray appears on the computer screen in a matter of seconds. What used to take three minutes to develop now takes seconds.

Kueser showed the difference of the traditional method of taking an X-ray compared with the new method. The most significant difference was the definition of the digital method, showing more detail.

Computed radiography is a term used to describe a system that electronically records a radiographic image.

Since the images are digital, they may be electronically manipulated to adjust contrast and density.

Physicians, radiologists, and other medical professionals can have access to the images via a secure Internet connection. Instead of patients carrying large envelopes with X-ray films, patients could take a CD with the images or the medical professional could view the images via the network.

The medical center isn't stopping with this newest installment. By mid- to late January, a new 16-slice CT scanner will be in place.

The medical center currently has a single-slice scanner which only provides a one dimension look. The new scanner would provide 3D image reconstruction with thinner slices which would make it easier for medical professionals to detect smaller irregularities.

"The main difference is the speed of the study," Ryan said. While the scan is being made, patients have to hold their breath. With the new CT, shorter breath holds will be required because it is a much faster process.

"We'll save money with the computed radiography equipment because we won't have the expenses of film and developer chemicals, and radiology personnel will be more efficient because it won't take as long to process cases," Ryan said, "but most importantly, we'll be serving our patients better."