Considerations when purchasing an Equine X-ray system

A radiography system is seen as an everyday essential for most equine vets these days, whether it be to help with the diagnosis and management of trauma, laminitis, lameness or as part of a pre purchase examination or farriery.


Equine radiography systems are a large investment for any veterinary practice, and it can be overwhelming to decide which system is best for your practice among the various options available from imaging suppliers. We at IMV imaging have pulled together some key points you should consider when purchasing an X-ray system for your equine practice, in the hope that it will help make it easier to find the right solution for your needs.

CR vs. DR radiography

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The key elements of all X-ray setups are a generator to produce the radiation, and a receptor that detects the radiation (the imaging cassette or plate), and a processor which will display the resultant image on a screen (computer or tablet). In terms of processors there are two options to choose from: computed radiography (CR) or digital radiography (DR).

With a CR system, you are required to physically insert the cassette and screen (containing the information that will produce the image) into the processor, which is usually large and located at the practice. The processing time per image is relatively long (often in the region of 1 minute). With a DR system, the information is transmitted to the processor (via wires or wirelessly) and the image appears almost instantly on the viewing device. Digital radiography systems for equine use are fully portable and can be used virtually anywhere with a power supply. Further, DR systems typically require less radiation than CR systems in order to produce a diagnostic quality image.

Due to this, the DR option is the more popular option because it is more practical in an ambulatory practice in particular, offers improved personnel radiation safety, and is efficient. For example, in pre-purchase examinations when 30+ images are acquired, a lot of time can be saved by not having to process the cassette after each acquisition. Another benefit is being able to view the image before moving the imaging cassette out of position, which allows the diagnostic quality of the image to be assessed before setting up for the next view.


The right cassette size for your equine X-rays

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In terms of cassettes available with X-ray systems, they vary in size and so knowing which one is most suitable is useful. DR systems generally come with one size of cassette, so ensuring that it is large enough to accommodate large areas of anatomy (e.g. stifles of large horses) whilst being small enough to be practical (e.g. to fit comfortably between limbs) is important. Only one cassette is required. With CR systems, a variety of different sizes are available. The size of detector will affect spatial resolution, and so the most appropriate (closest in size) cassette should be chosen for the region being imaged. This, combined with the long processing time per cassette, means that a number of cassettes in a range of sizes are required.

For equine radiography the 10x12” cassette is the most suitable option, especially when dealing with predominantly orthopaedic (limb) work. However, some practices that take a lot of dental, axial skeleton or stifle X-rays may prefer the slightly larger 14x17” cassette.


The right generator for your equine radiography needs


It is very important not to forget the generator when deciding on what kind of X-ray set up to go with, as this will have a large bearing on the quality of X-ray images you are able to produce. Generally with equine practice, especially with those performing a lot of ambulatory work, a wireless generator is a more practical and safer option. However, portable generators are generally low powered. Things such as kV and mAs may limit the ability to acquire diagnostic quality images of the back, base of the neck and stifle, for example, so this is something to keep in mind when looking at generators. Because DR systems require less radiation to produce an image than CR systems, this is another reason why DR systems are best suited to ambulatory practice where low powered generators are generally used. It is very important to make sure you have a generator stand or purchase one with your new equipment, as this is now a requirement when using a mobile generator.

It is worth noting that DR X-ray systems can be fully wireless, so you can have an X-ray setup that doesn’t require any wires around the horse when working. For a lot of people this would make their life a lot easier, so it’s worth investigating if this is possible when you are researching X-ray system options.

Find the right people to help

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There are a number of things to consider when looking at purchasing a new X-ray system for your equine practice and it can be difficult to know where to start. We recommend speaking to diagnostic imaging equipment specialists such as our IMV imaging Account Managers who are on hand to help you navigate the process and help you find an equine radiography solution that is right for you and the needs of your practice.


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