Some time ago, we left the traditional black and white gelatin films in the past, where they belong, and are now on our second digital solution. We are proud to offer you direct digital radiography, the same technology on offer at modern teaching hospitals like the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

As you will know, an x-ray used to be a black and white film and going digital allows many more shades of grey, meaning more can often be seen in the image, compared to a film x-ray. The first digital systems, called CR or Computerised Radiology used a reusable digital “film” read by a scanning machine line by line and was certainly a step forward. DR or Digital Radiography uses a fixed sensor with millions of tiny sensors to directly capture the image and send it to the computer. To give you an idea a penny would cover over 16,000 sensors each contributing it’s own tiny dot making up a hugely detailed image. All in about four seconds!

The advantages for you and your pet include:

1) Quality of image. Digital Radiography (DR) is currently state of the art and is the gold standard. You see the direct image, whereas a computerised image from the reusable film (CR) is a bit like a photocopy of a photocopy and whilst a step up from films, our digital system produced images, often of jaw dropping quality. I (Alistair) have always been an enthusiastic radiologist, gaining a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Postgraduate Certificate in the subject, early in my career and I rarely miss the opportunity to sit in on a x-ray reading seminar at conferences. I would be proud to display the images we now take at Oak Tree, as being equal to those on display from much bigger facilities and veterinary schools.

2) No delay. As soon as the equipment is turned on, we are ready to take the radiograph. With an old fashioned wet film processor, 15-20 minutes is needed for the fluids to warm up, even longer with manual processing, still seen in some veterinary practices. With our new system, your pet’s image is on the big high-resolution FDA approved viewing monitor – Food and Drug Administration in America who approve medical equipment in the US.

3) Fewer exposures. As the software can view many more greys, a potentially light or dark image is automatically adjusted so we can see what we need to, whereas with a film, what you see is what you get and would need to be repeated. Often a film taken for bone is too dark for the soft tissues and a film taken for soft tissues is too white for bone. With digital you can see both properly, through the contrast controls.

4) Lower dose. We have been able to reduce the x-ray settings converting to digital. Although all x-rays involve a minute radiation risk, any reduction has to be welcome.

5) A digital image can be copied to a disc or emailed. This means we can send a copy of your pet’s x-rays to a specialist anywhere in the world. There are now emerging telemedicine services, meaning a difficult x-ray can be viewed, somewhere in the world, by a certified expert and a report given electronically within the hour, at a cost, of course.

6) Environmentally sensitive. We no longer need to buy and store films or buy and dispose of chemicals, which include silver salts which are potentially hazardous to the environment. A saving in things and a saving in fuel for delivery and collection mean a significant reduction in carbon footprint over the long term.

What’s the downside?

You could purchase and service a pretty swish car for what we have invested going digital, so there is not a financial saving at present. However, I am sure you would rather see your money being invested in your pet’s care, enabling a better quality service to be provided, rather than continuously spent on consumables to throw away.