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C-Arm Decisions: Traditional Image Intensifier or Flat Panel Detector?

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a C-Arm that’s right for you and your facility

A Ziehm C-arm with analog image intensifier.

When you’re looking into purchasing a c-arm, you’ll have plenty of questions to ask about price, size, room requirements and layout, power requirements, and optional software; just to name a few. But a somewhat new development in the world of c-arms is another decision a potential buyer has to make: analog or digital?

Will you go with traditional c-arm image intensifiers, or newer digital flat panel detectors? Let’s dive into the differences!

While mini c-arms are increasingly being made with flat panel detectors more and more, full-size c-arms, for the most part, still hold analog as the standard. When considering your c-arm, remember that:

  • Image intensifiers will provide you with high quality images for years, but eventually the image quality will slowly begin to decrease.
  • A digital flat panel detector has the ability to produce clear images for years with very little degradation, and for a much longer period than analog.
Ziehm C-arm with a flat panel digital detector.

Using an analog c-arm with the traditional image intensifier means needing to collimate down for higher magnification. As you magnify and more details become clear, your field of vision is reduced with each increase in magnification. You won’t have this problem with digital.

Flat panel detectors have a much higher potential for higher image resolution than their analog predecessors. However, when it comes to resolution with your c-arm, remember that a properly cared for and maintained c-arm will produce a better quality image than a neglected one. In c-arms with flat panel detectors especially, if proper technique isn’t maintained and if the quality of the monitors diminishes, it is possible that an analog would produce better image resolution in this scenario. Post-processing also has an effect on quality.

Since digital detectors have been on the market for some time now and are slowly transforming the c-arm market, pricing isn’t as costly as it once was, though digital still runs a higher price than its analog counterparts. More manufacturers are seeing the appeal of full-size digital detector c-arms and the demand is increasing, so it’s not just the big name companies like GE, Siemens, and Ziehm who are producing digital detectors anymore. An example of this is MX Imaging’s CFP flat panel detectors, which use CMOS Imaging Sensors which allow the detector to be used in both high sensitivity mode and low gain mode, depending on your application.

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Another difference between analog and digital detectors is the radiation dose. Digital offers a much lower radiation dose than analog. The wider range of view afforded to digital detectors allows for this radiation decrease. For patients worried about their radiation dose during x-ray procedures, flat panel digital detectors can offer peace of mind.

Worried about space? Digital detectors are also significantly less bulky than image intensifiers, leaving a wider range of movement for practitioners as they move around the patient during procedures.

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a c-arm that’s right for you and your facility. Refurbished c-arm systems are always a great option, and Amber Diagnostics has been providing reliable refurbished systems for over 25 years. Don’t make the journey tougher than it needs to be! We have a skilled sales team and dedicated engineers that are here to answer any questions you may have about analog or digital c-arm systems and your purchasing options. Contact us today to take the first steps!


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