Image Intensifier or Flat Panel Detector – Which is Better for your C-Arm?

Since their introduction in the 1950s, C-arms have allowed physicians to monitor medical procedures in real time and achieve better results for their patients.  At the time, image intensifiers were the leading technology. About 50 years later, flat panel detectors were developed. While both the image intensifier and the flat panel detector have the same purpose – to provide a viewable image – they work in different ways.

Increasingly, more and more C-arm manufacturers have embraced the adoption of flat panel detector technology. But does that mean that image intensifiers don’t have a place? The answer isn’t as simple as it seems. Every lab, program, and healthcare system has its own needs that must be considered when answering the question: Should we go with an image intensifier or a flat panel detector?

The differences in each technology are important to consider when deciding on which technology to purchase and use in a lab – either a new program being established or one that is looking to expand and grow.

Image quality is one of the most important factors in deciding between an image intensifier (II) and a flat panel detector (FPD). Though image intensifiers can provide quality images for a few years, that image quality can degrade over time. What’s more, the technology behind image intensifier systems can create peripheral field of view distortion. Flat panel detectors show minimal image degradation over time and eliminate geometric distortion.

Another important difference between image intensifiers and flat panel detector systems is in radiation dose. The difference is in magnification mode. With an image intensifier, the dose must be increased to magnify the visible image. With flat panel detector technology, the same image magnification is achieved with no increase in radiation. Generally, flat panel detector systems use less radiation than image intensifiers.

While the technology behind both image intensifiers and flat panel detector systems has improved over the years, it is generally accepted that flat panel technology provides a lower dose solution compared to an image intensifier system. If lowering dose to the patient and staff is the goal, the decision should be an easy one: flat panel technology.

For some labs and programs, size is a consideration. How much space do you have? Flat panel detector technology is more compact when compared to the extended tube structure of an image intensifier. This allows for more space for the physician and staff to work – especially with larger patients as a flat panel detector system enables precise control and ergonomic functionality.

Cost is yet another consideration. Flat panel detector technology is newer than image intensifier technology and provides several advantages. It’s not surprising then that systems utilizing flat panel detectors generally cost more than their image intensifier counterparts. But that upfront cost savings is not always realized in the lifespan of an imaging system when factoring in image degradation and a generally higher cost of repair with image intensifiers.

When deciding between an imaging system based on image intensifier or flat panel detector technology, a program must access what its goals are – not just where they are today, but where they plan to be in the future. What procedures do they perform now? Will that change in a few years? What are their image quality needs and how important is radiation safety? And finally, is size and cost a concern? These are all considerations when deciding on the imaging technology for your C-arm.

The fixed C-arms designed and built by Omega utilize flat panel detector technology and advanced AI-enabled ROI that delivers the ultimate radiation protection for everyone in the room – patient, physician, and staff – using fluoro or cine methods of acquisition. This radiation reduction is proven, and it goes beyond anything else in use today. Omega does this while delivering spectacular image quality inside and out of the ROI, with or without magnification.

The AI image-guided interventional systems from Omega use flat panel technology and reduce radiation exposure by up to 84%. This reduction is in addition to any current ALARA best practices for radiation safety and far better than any conventional non-AI system and far better than any image intensifier system. Omega’s AI-enabled systems represent a clear step above any image intensifier-based system as well as any flat panel system without AI and ROI technology.

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