spinal column

The latest development at Palmer: X-rays without film

Ian McLean, D.C., DACBR, Davenport ’79
Dr. Ian McLean, Director of Clinical Radiology
Dr. Ian McLean

Right now Palmer College is installing digital radiographic systems in the Chiropractic Learning Resource Center (CLRC), which is scheduled to open later this year on the Davenport Campus. But what does that mean to faculty such as myself? Or to the students who will be using a technology that is currently available in only a limited number of chiropractic clinics?

The greatest benefit of digital radiology over film-based radiology is that it can be viewed almost immediately after a patient’s examination through computer networks by radiologists, the patient’s doctors and student interns.

In practice, this means that the X-ray images will be available to clinicians in any of the clinic treatment rooms, which is particularly valuable in the management of a patient who may present with acute symptoms after trauma. Plus, since these same images can be e-mailed at a moment’s notice, clinic radiologists and clinicians can review images obtained after-hours at home as immediately as if they were on campus.

Can you imagine a system where all radiology reports and studies are constantly available without films being lost? This is part of the advantage of utilizing a computerized picture archival and communication system (PACS). The PACS represents a significant component of a digital radiology department and allows studies to be captured, distributed and stored in digital format and consequently retrieved at any time. After the X-ray images are obtained from the patient, the images can be sent to any computer within the network.

For clinicians, the benefits of PACS are an increased availability of images and the images can be available to any clinician within a prescribed network. This latter aspect can be quite important in forming communications and consultations between clinicians and radiologists, especially across a large multicampus college such as Palmer.

Digital radiology is also expected to have a positive impact on patient education. Not only can images be displayed to patients on high-resolution monitors in adjusting rooms, but the images can also be annotated to include information such as clinical data and radiographic measurements. The radiologist’s reports will also be immediately available with the images during the report of findings to the patients.

While digital radiology’s image quality is equal to that of conventional radiographic systems, only digital radiology provides healthcare professionals the ability to fine tune an image’s grayscale and contrast as well as make edge enhancement and image sharpening alterations.

Computer aided measurement also represents an integral aspect of image evaluation. This includes the ability to measure linear distance, angles and anatomical volumes. In the clinical arena these images can be easily reviewed on standard flat panel monitors.

Everyone using the digital imaging process and its associated software at the CLRC will undergo appropriate training, including student interns. This will include hands-on experience with both the direct capture and computed radiography systems. Students will also be expected to interpret images and correlate the data with the patient’s clinical presentation.

The digital images themselves will also allow us to provide students with expanded radiology libraries from which to study. And because of digital radiology’s adaptable nature, we will be able to quickly remove identifying images to make them compliant with patient privacy regulations.

In the future, we anticipate the CLRC’s digital radiology department will supply radiology services to chiropractic clinicians within the surrounding community. It will also serve as a learning resource for students on our branch campuses. Because of the advantage of digital radiology, referring chiropractors will have direct access to their patients’ images even before those patients leave the radiology facility.

If you have questions about digital radiology, including direct capture and computed radiography, please e-mail me at ian.mclean@palmer.edu.

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