Digital X-ray

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 08.09.2021

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What is the new diagnostic method - digital x-ray? In fact, this is our usual X-ray examination with a digitally processed image. For the digital analogue, the latest equipment with minimal radiation exposure is used, which is a significant advantage. What else do you need to know about the new product? [1]

Digital or film x-ray?

First of all, most patients are interested in: what is the difference between conventional film and new digital X-rays? There are differences, and they are as follows:

  • a digital image is displayed not on film, but on a computer screen, and then, if necessary, transferred to a disk or other storage device;
  • the whole process of scanning and displaying the results takes no more than ten minutes;
  • the image is of the highest quality;
  • the image can be additionally processed using various programs - for example, to improve the visualization of a specific area;
  • the dose of radiation received during the procedure is less than during a conventional X-ray examination;
  • the diagnostic result can be immediately sent to the computer of the attending physician;
  • digital x-ray is safe and can be stored for a long time.

Digital X-ray exposure

The issue of radiation dose in X-ray studies has always been quite relevant. Experts have calculated that when conducting a digital X-ray, the degree of radiation exposure is about ten times less than with a conventional film study. This is especially important if the diagnosis is assigned to a child or woman during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

You need to understand this point: the better and newer the apparatus used to obtain an X-ray, the more accurate and safer the study will be. If your goal is to minimize the adverse effects of the procedure on the body, then try to choose a clinic that has the most modern equipment. [2]

Indications for the procedure

Digital X-ray has many indications, just like its film counterpart. The study is prescribed:

  • with lung diseases, or with suspicion of them, as well as for preventive purposes for the timely detection of dangerous pathologies;
  • for the diagnosis of diseases of the cardiovascular system, heart defects, functional disorders of the pulmonary circulation;
  • for the diagnosis of fractures, curvatures and other pathologies of the spinal column, including osteochondrosis;
  • for diseases of the stomach, duodenal ulcer - with or without contrast;
  • to assess the work of the biliary system (usually carried out with contrasting);
  • to identify polyps, tumor processes, foreign bodies, inflammatory reactions in the large intestine;
  • with diseases of the abdominal cavity, which are accompanied by severe pain in the abdomen;
  • with diseases of the musculoskeletal system - for example, with fractures, dislocations, ligament injuries, chronic joint problems;
  • in dentistry before and after dental treatment, during the placement of implants, with abscesses, jaw fractures, malocclusion.


If the patient is to undergo a digital X-ray of the extremities, chest, cervical or thoracic spine, then there is no need to prepare specifically for the procedure. If it is necessary to obtain an image of the lumbar or sacral spine, abdominal organs, then some preparation rules still exist. For example, a few days before the study, it is necessary to change the diet, excluding foods that cause increased gas formation: peas, beans, whole milk, baked goods, soda. If there is a tendency to flatulence, then three or four days before the procedure, you can take enzyme preparations that facilitate the digestion of food. Such measures are necessary to reduce the amount of gas in the intestines, as they can negatively affect the clarity of the X-ray image, as well as complicate its interpretation. [3]

Alcohol and smoking must not be taken before the digital X-ray procedure. Immediately before entering the X-ray diagnostic room, you need to take off all metal objects (jewelry, watches, etc.), remove your mobile phone, keys, etc. From your pockets.

Who to contact?

The device for carrying out the procedure

Digital X-ray machines can be both mobile (mobile) and stationary. The digital X-ray system has the most functionality, which can be used for any type of X-ray. This is a universal diagnostic complex suitable for both conventional fluorographic screening and specific X-ray examinations of the extremities, abdominal or thoracic cavity organs, the spinal column, and the skeletal system (including the bones of the face and skull). [4]

Modern digital X-ray machines are convenient and safe for both the doctor and the patient. The resulting image is of high quality due to increased output power and a short exposure period. The information obtained during the procedure is easily integrated into the general hospital network.

Technique of the digital x-ray

To get a high-quality digital image, the patient must adhere to the following algorithm of actions:

  • take the position of the body and limbs recommended by the radiologist, and do not move until the end of the procedure;
  • from the moment the device is turned on, it is advisable to hold your breath: this is necessary if an X-ray of the lungs or thoracic spine, as well as the lower back and abdominal organs is performed.

The interpretation of the result is carried out by a specialist immediately after the procedure; the patient's participation in this process is not required. The radiologist examines the resulting image, assesses the pathological changes and makes a conclusion. For most patients, the decryption is handed out personally to the hands some time after the end of the study, however, it is possible to transfer the information directly to the computer to the attending physician. [5]

After the digital X-ray procedure, the patient can go home or to the hospital, depending on the situation. If the patient cannot move independently, then he is transported by accompanying persons - medical workers or relatives.

Digital x-ray of the lungs

A digital x-ray of the lungs can be recommended by a doctor for various reasons - both for diagnosis and for assessing the dynamics of the disease or for preventive purposes during medical examinations. Most often, the procedure is prescribed:

  • with pneumonia;
  • pleurisy, bronchitis;
  • tumor processes in the lungs;
  • with tuberculosis, etc.

If the patient goes to the doctor and voices complaints about a prolonged cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, a feeling of heaviness and wheezing, then X-ray diagnostics will be recommended for him. Standard prophylactic fluorography can also be done digitally, which is safer and faster. 

Digital X-ray is especially recommended for pregnant women, children, medical workers, military personnel, patients who have suffered from tuberculosis, patients with chronic respiratory pathologies, as well as all those who, for one reason or another, have to undergo frequent X-ray examinations. The use of a digital analog will significantly reduce the total radiation exposure to the body.

Digital chest x-ray

A chest X-ray is always prescribed for strict indications. For example, the procedure is indicated if the patient complains of shortness of breath, hemoptysis, chest pain, if there is an injury to a difficult part (spine, sternum, collarbone or ribs). Diagnosis is done when lung inflammation, malignant tumors are suspected.

What a chest x-ray shows:

  • pneumonia;
  • tuberculosis;
  • emphysema of the lungs;
  • malignant neoplasms;
  • chest trauma, foreign bodies in the respiratory system;
  • cardiac tamponade, effusion pericarditis.

To interpret the results, the specialist will analyze the foci of darkening and shadows, and the accuracy of the image will depend on the accuracy of following the instructions during the study, as well as on how correctly the projection was selected and set. [6]

When assessing a digital image, the doctor must take into account the tissue structure, size and shape of the lungs, the features of the pulmonary fields, the localization of the mediastinal organs. The foci of darkening can mean an inflammatory process, and light spots in the picture of the lungs - for a violation of the parenchyma with the formation of abscesses, cavities, etc.

Digital X-ray of the spine

Performing a digital X-ray of the spine has some peculiarities. The study itself does not present any difficulty, it is safe and lasts no more than 10-20 minutes. Before the procedure, the patient must take off his clothes (most often they undress to the waist if there is no need to diagnose the coccyx area). 

The neck and lumbar region are the most mobile segments of the spine, therefore, in their study, the use of functional tests is relevant. The radiologist may ask the patient to tilt or turn his head, bend or straighten, lie down, raise his arms, etc. It is very important to give the spine the necessary position so that the required area is most “open” for imaging.

The region of the sacrum, coccyx, and also the thoracic region is not so mobile, so they are taken using two projections. The patient can sit down or lie down: a specialist radiologist will tell you the best position of the body.

Patients with spinal injuries are transported on stretchers for digital x-rays.

Digital X-ray of the stomach with barium

A digital X-ray of the stomach is a type of abdominal fluoroscopy that helps to examine organ pathologies. Peptic ulcer disease, polyps, dystrophic and inflammatory processes, and oncological neoplasms are targeted. During the procedure, the doctor can pay attention to the organs located in the immediate vicinity: the esophagus and duodenum.

Before prescribing a digital X-ray to a patient, the doctor must rule out the likelihood of the patient developing an allergy to the contrast component. If everything is in order, the patient is advised to adhere to a special diet for three days.

When performing an X-ray, the subject drinks two sips of a special substance (barium), after which the specialist fixes an image of the esophageal walls. Then the patient drinks about 200 ml more of the contrast agent, and the radiologist fixes the image of the stomach.

The whole procedure usually takes about half an hour. If you need to visualize the duodenum, then you need to wait a little longer for the barium to enter the organ cavity.

Pictures can be captured from different angles: the patient lies on the couch on his side, on his back, on his stomach, or stands upright. To diagnose a hiatal hernia, the patient lies down and raises the pelvis at an angle of about 40 °.

For the patient, digital x-ray with barium is not dangerous: the substance completely leaves the stomach after about 60-90 minutes. Sometimes, after diagnosis, constipation occurs, the color of the feces changes. As a rule, the process of bowel movements returns to normal on their own within a couple of days.

For reference: the contrast agent is barium sulfate diluted with drinking water. The substance tastes like a calcium (chalk) solution and is generally well accepted by patients. The study is not accompanied by discomfort, and the information obtained allows you to quickly identify serious problems that are difficult to visualize with other diagnostic methods.

Digital X-ray for a child

Pediatric digital x-rays can be performed even from birth if indicated. Using this method, you can examine and assess the state of the internal organs, the musculoskeletal system - in a word, almost all tissues of the body:

  • X-ray examination of the brain will allow visualizing the presence and condition of metastases, the shape of the cranial bones, the quality of the vascular pattern, the condition of the paranasal sinuses and cranial sutures;
  • when conducting a digital x-ray of the lungs, it is possible to identify tumor processes, pneumonia, bronchitis and fibrosis;
  • X-ray of the abdominal zone helps to identify neoplasms, metastases, abscesses and foci of destruction in the tissues;
  • the digital X-ray procedure of the spine is performed when injuries are received, as well as to exclude hernia, infection and cancer.

When diagnosing children, it is very important to ensure that the child is completely still for a few seconds or minutes. In many clinics for babies there is a special X-ray "cradle" in which the baby is fixed in the required position. In rare cases, if it is impossible to keep the baby, the use of short-term anesthesia is allowed.

It is strictly forbidden to use a digital X-ray for a child on his own: the study is performed only on the direction of a doctor. The doctor assesses the need for the method after an external examination, anamnesis and preliminary laboratory diagnostics. [7]

Contraindications to the procedure

Digital X-ray has relatively few contraindications, and all of them are not categorical and not too strict. For example, if the study is assigned to a pregnant woman, then it is better not to carry it out during the first trimester. Nevertheless, in the presence of indications, an X-ray is still done, however, all the necessary protective equipment is used.

The lactation period is also considered a relative contraindication. However, here, too, the procedure is performed in the presence of injuries and diseases, for the diagnosis of which one cannot do without an X-ray.

The situation is more complicated if the patient suffers from hypermobility - for example, this condition is characteristic of schizophrenia, some psychoses and neuroses. Due to the fact that a person cannot ensure immobility for some time, the procedure may be at risk, because the resulting images will be blurry and indistinct.

Complications after the procedure

When conducting a digital X-ray, the patient receives a relatively small dose of radiation, which on average corresponds to 4-6% of the annual rate received by a person from natural radiation sources (this rate is determined approximately as 3 mSv per year). That is, approximately the same amount of radiation can be obtained by sunbathing for an hour under the sun's rays. And yet, to avoid unpleasant complications, doctors advise against taking digital x-rays too often - that is, more than six or seven times a year.

We must not forget that X-ray diagnostics are prescribed according to strict indications, and often the goal of doctors is to identify a deadly pathology. If the salvation of not only health, but also a person's life is at stake, then there is usually no talk of possible or impossible complications after an X-ray.

Digital X-ray is the best option among the existing ones, since it is safer and no less informative when compared with the usual X-ray examination for us. If possible, during the procedure, protection of organs that will not be examined should be ensured: for example, special plates are put on the chest and abdomen area that do not let dangerous rays through.

Consequences after the procedure

The effect of radiation on the human body may depend on both the duration of the procedure and its quality: the newer and more modern the equipment for digital X-ray, the safer the diagnostics. Sievert is taken as the unit of measurement of the radiation dose. In each X-ray room there are special dosimeters that measure the degree of human exposure during the study.

The radiation dose is directly related to the quality of the equipment. Thus, digital X-ray is accompanied by a lower degree of radiation than the conventional film counterpart. It should also be borne in mind that a higher dose of rays is used to obtain a picture of the skeletal system than for examining hollow organs.

Many patients are afraid of X-ray diagnostics, due to the high probability of negative health consequences. On the one hand, any amount of radiation exposure can harm the body. And, on the other hand, the possible danger that exists when the X-ray is abandoned significantly exceeds this harm, since it can lead to serious complications from the damaged organ or system. Therefore, if there are indications for conducting a study, it should still be done. Of course, for greater safety, it is better to choose a digital X-ray: modern devices give a much lower radiation load on the body. [8]

Care after the procedure

Special care after performing a digital X-ray is usually not required, but doctors have identified several recommendations to accelerate the removal of the received radiation dose from the body:

  • on arrival home you need to immediately take a warm shower;
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Accelerate body cleansing and other drinks:

  • green tea;
  • fresh milk;
  • natural juice with pulp (peach, apple, strawberry, etc.);
  • grape juice.

In addition, it is recommended to walk a lot in the fresh air, preferably in the shade - for example, in the forest, in the park. It is undesirable to sunbathe and stay in the sun for a long time on the day of the study. [9]

Modern digital X-ray allows obtaining clear and high-quality images, thanks to which the doctor gets the opportunity to adequately assess the clinical features of the problem and choose the optimal treatment tactics. Today, such a study can be carried out in many clinical centers: information on the type of digital apparatus and its capabilities is provided directly in a particular selected clinic.

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