How can you justify upgrading to small animal DR X-ray technology?

For years now, equine vets have been enjoying the benefits of using Direct Digital Radiography (DR) technologies to radiograph horses. The benefits of using DR in equine radiography are perhaps obvious and manifold: speed, portability, ease of use, no cables to spook the horse and so on- the technology fits the purpose of equine vets extremely well, and older style Computerised Radiography (CR) systems which are so prevalent in small animal practice are now extremely rare in equine environments.



So, barring specialist orthopaedics and referral hospitals, why, beyond first adopters, hasn’t DR X-ray technology been as widely accepted in small animal use?

Clearly many of the workflow benefits that apply to equine are less applicable to small animal radiography, but there are many workflow upsides that do translate across. Portability may not be a concern for small animal sites where often the X-ray cassette is housed in a bucky tray under a table, but speed of acquisition is still a significant factor in taking X-rays of animals under sedation. From clicking the trigger to a diagnostic image appearing on-screen happens in seconds rather than minutes, and the time saved in re-taking shots or repositioning patients is an order of magnitude lower using DR rather than CR technologies.


Clarox DR X-ray System-1

Half a dozen diagnostic X-rays can be taken with a DR unit in less time than it takes to process one cassette on a CR system, and as an additional benefit, surely the less time the animal is under anaesthetic (using less drugs), the better, right? And what about nursing and practice staff? Over the past year, everyone has been working longer hours and had more tasks thrown at them, so wouldn’t it be great to reduce the amount of time practice staff are consumed in taking X-rays by 75% or more, so they can do other things, or heaven forbid have a cup of tea!?

All of these factors are great reasons to invest in DR X-ray processors, but there is no escaping the fact that DR solutions are a greater initial investment than CR processors. This is the biggest objection we hear as to why people buy cheaper CR systems over the more desired DR option.

So, they cost more initially, but are they more expensive to own over their economic lifetime in the practice? Going back just 5 years, the answer would have been an unequivocal “yes,” as DR panels were around 3x the price of full CR systems. However, technological advances, improved production methods, and increased production volumes mean that initial purchase price differential has decreased greatly. Consider also that DR systems are typically housed in a bucky tray and that they have no moving parts, and the potential for system breakages and downtime is much reduced, both increasing system uptime so the X-ray unit is available when you need it, and also reducing the potential cost of repairs. When something does go wrong, the systems can frequently be fixed remotely in minutes rather than having to get an engineer on site and being down for a matter of hours or even days. Consider also that there are no films or cassettes that will need to be replaced, often at significant expense and frequency over the life of the system. Take all these factors into account, and the lifetime cost of having a DR system in first opinion practice may be less than £10 per week more than CR over an 8-year life cycle of ownership. And that’s without taking into account the reduced staff cost per X-ray, lower drug use, and improved clinical benefits of reducing the animal’s time under sedation.

Another factor to consider is that when practices invest in DR, they typically take more X-ray images, and subsequently bill more imaging to clients. Plus, practices will typically charge clients more for X-rays based on having better equipment and greater opportunity for client engagement and value-add through sharing of images. This all helps to generate greater revenues for the practice and improves the return on investment. So perhaps the question isn’t “how can I justify upgrading to DR in my practice?” but “how can I afford not to?”

In the table below we have detailed example costs to a customer over 8 years of owning a CR or DR X-ray imaging system:n



Customer cost over 8 years




X-ray processor



Service contract









Total cost




Breakdown and consumables costs are average costs based on taking 3 X-rays per day, 3 days per week over 8 year period. Breakdown includes one core element failure over 8 year life expectancy.

Why not check out our range of DR X-ray systems here: DR Systems >>

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