What is the Difference Between a Normal X-ray and a Digital X-Ray? banner

By westgate January 22, 2022

What is the Difference Between a Normal X-ray and a Digital X-Ray?

Film has gone digital, movies have gone digital, music has gone digital…and so have X-rays. What’s the difference between a normal X-ray and digital X-ray?

X-rays have been used for over a hundred years to diagnose broken bones, tumors, and illnesses in the tissue of the body, like pneumonia. X-rays emit high-energy light that can pass through the skin and soft tissues of the body. Bones and dense tissue absorb the light, giving us a picture of what’s inside of us.

Normal, or traditional, X-rays have been the primary form of this technology for decades. Traditional X-rays are incredibly safe, but they do emit some radiation. During a traditional X-ray, the patient wears a lead apron to protect the rest of their body from radiation exposure. The lead apron blocks radiation from passing through other parts of the body. Digital X-rays are a relatively new invention, but they emit about 80% less radiation, making them even safer for patients (especially those who need repeated X-rays!).

Traditional X-rays use an older technology: film. Like taking a picture with a film camera, normal X-rays use physical film to record the image of the bone or tissue. A negative then has to be developed, processed, and printed. There are several shortcomings to this method, which is where digital X-ray has stepped in. Digital X-rays operate like digital cameras or the camera on your phone; snap a picture and it’s ready to be seen or shared. Like digital cameras, no film is necessary, nor are a processing lab or chemicals to develop the film. The image is stored digitally, so all that’s needed is the computer or cloud space to store it. The advantage of a digital X-ray is that it can be stored and accessed again later without having to find a physical copy. Medical records of the X-ray can be shared between doctors and viewed instantly.

Another advantage of digital X-rays over traditional X-rays is the image quality. X-ray images from digital X-rays are sharper and have a much higher resolution. Doctors can zoom in to the image to look closely at areas of interest, giving them a more detailed view and a clearer understanding of the medical issue.

At Westgate Family Physicians, we utilize in-house digital X-rays as a diagnostic tool for medical problems involving bones, extremities, the chest, the spine, and even the sinuses. To schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, call (864) 574-0070.