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Computed x-ray system saves American soldiers

A unique Israeli x-ray system sold to the U.S. military helps army medics obtain high quality digital x-ray pictures on the front line. Dozens of these units have already seen combat service in Iraq and Afghanistan with outstanding results.

U.S. army technician reviewing a patient x-ray on the Orex CR unit

Since its invention in the late 19th century, the x-ray has proven to be one of the most important diagnostic tools of modern day medicine. Although new medical imaging techniques have been developed in recent decades, x-ray continues to be used in many medical areas especially because of its simplicity, small size and low cost. In the last decade new advanced techniques have entered the field of radiology (x-ray) called Computed Radiology (CR). In this method, instead of using old-fashioned film which requires a long and complicated developing process, the x-ray operator uses a standard x-ray system. A phosphor plate is placed in a standard size cassette replacing the regular radiographic film. The x-ray exposure forms a latent image on a phosphor plate that is then scanned (read or developed) using a laser beam CR reader. The CR unit displays the resultant digital image on a computer monitor screen. By the end of the short process, the phosphor plate is erased and ready for another x-ray image exposure, making the CR system very economical (compared to the film process it replaces).

The first CR equipment was large and costly but an Israeli company called Orex has successfully miniaturized the CR equipment to the size of a desktop printer for a fraction of the original cost. The new CR configuration has many advantages over its predecessors. Apart from the size and cost, it is easier to use (using simple Windows-based software) and replaces the old method of centralized CR where several stations located across a hospital would send their x-ray photos to a central computer to be analyzed and processed. With a cheaper, simpler form of distributed CR, a smallCR unit is placed in each radiology room to do both the analyzing and processing itself. The new system also increases the redundancy of the hospital x-ray system reducing the need for a costly central back-up system.

The Orex unit in a U.S. field hospital in Afghanistan

The small size and rigidity of the Orex CR units make them ideal for mobile hospitals and front line medical units. The American Army was quick to realize this potential and has purchased more then 50 CR units in the last couple of years. These units performed especially well in the harsh conditions of Afghanistan and Iraq. U.S. medical officers reported that the Orex CR system was one of the last pieces of equipment to be unplugged while relocating front line medical units, and due to its small size and tough structure valuable time was saved in the process.

Iddo Genuth

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