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What Is Radiographic Digital Imaging?

Radiographic digital imaging may use neutrons to form a picture.
Radiographic digital images can be printed and read in the same way photographic x-rays can.
Images taken digitally can still be printed if necessary for discussion with the patient.
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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2014
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Radiographic digital imaging is a specific type of radiography which relies on a digital media to capture and present the pictures it takes, rather than the more classic use of photographic film. Radiographic digital imaging has become a popular form of displaying radiographic images, particularly medical x-rays. Most radiographic digital imaging is done using x-rays, though some techniques may utilize gamma radiation as an alternate method for providing images. X-rays are short wavelength radiation, with photons created by an electron process. This is in contrast to gamma radiation, which often shares the wavelength of x-rays, but has as its source a subatomic activity such as the interaction of electrons with positrons.

Occasionally, radiographic digital imaging may use neutrons in order to form a picture. This is primarily used for industrial imaging purposes, though it is sometimes necessary for security as well. Neutron imaging is used when traditional x-ray and gamma-ray radiation cannot pass through the material to be penetrated, such as lead or thick layers of metal. Neutrons have no problem passing through these materials, though materials with high levels of water tend to interfere with their passage.

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Radiographic digital imaging is used in the industrial world, in a wide range of medical fields, and in many security screening processes. While a number of other techniques exist which can often yield the same results, the affordability and versatility of radiographic digital imaging makes it a consistently popular technology. In industry, radiographic digital imaging is primarily used as a way of checking products for structural flaws. The exact thickness and density of materials can easily be determined using radiography, down to the nanometer, which can help reveal areas of weakness that might break or stress.

In medicine, radiographic digital imaging is used for a number of different procedures in various medical disciplines. Examining bone tissue is one of the most common uses of radiographic digital imaging. This technique provides a clear picture of the bone which will reveal most fractures or cracks which have formed as a result of stress. Looking inside the digestive tract is another use of radiographic digital imaging, utilizing some sort of contrast material which "lights up" beneath an x-ray. Finding and tracking the spread of cancer is yet another use of digital imaging, particularly in the bones and other dense tissue.

Radiographic digital imaging offers a number of advantages over traditional film-based imaging techniques. These include the reduced use of x-ray film and chemicals, a significant reduction in under- and over-exposure of film, and an easy distribution and manipulation system. Working digitally allows for image enhancement that is difficult with film, simple storage on digital media, and the ability to copy patient x-rays to a CD for the patient's use. The benefits are very real, and most industries are making the transition.

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