Automated Digital X-Ray vs. Analog X-Ray with Digital Panel Upgrade

In the world of X-ray rooms, the "latest and greatest" from all the big OEMs are fully-automated digital systems. The goal in developing these systems is to add the ultimate throughput advantage to the laundry list of benefits that already come with direct digital imaging. 

While there are advantages to be had, they come with a price tag that many facilities find tough to manage. We've spoken to dozens of sites over the last years, weighing their options and evaluating the cost/reward benefits of a fully automatic room. In all of those conversations, we tabled another, more affordable option: retro-fitting an analog X-ray room (perhaps even one they already have) with a digital flat panel detector.

We'll share with you below how retro-fitting an analog X-ray room compares to purchasing a new, automated, digital X-ray room.    

Automated vs. Analog

What’s the same?

Both options are direct digital imaging. There's no additional processing or scanning required.

Both options can be configured in a dual-panel setting with a digital detector in both the table and the wall stand. This setup adds efficiency by eliminating the need to swap a single detector between them.

If purchased new, both can feature generator integration. This feature combines the generator control console with the digital X-ray workstation into a single interface.

What’s different?

The fully-automated systems are just that: fully automated. The system can automatically move into position for the next X-ray shot through pre-programmed techniques. The idea is that this will save the X-ray tech time, therefore increasing throughput. 

Where the fully automated system wins

If properly programmed by a staff with the proper workflow training, a fully-automated X-ray system can edge out a retrofitted analog system in throughput. 

Where the analog with retrofit wins

The initial purchase price and overall cost of ownership of an analog X-ray room retrofitted with a DR panel will be far lower than those of a fully-automated system. This is especially true if a facility chooses to retrofit one of their existing X-ray rooms.


Retrofitting an existing system requires no remodeling. In most cases, new analog rooms can also be installed with no remodeling- so long as they don't feature ceiling-mounted components. Installation is much simpler and faster for retrofitted analog systems as well.

The Takeaway

If your facility serves a consistently high volume of patients and has room in its budget, a fully-automated system can help you better manage and even increase your workflow. Be aware, though: it will take careful planning and implementation to build your automated workflow. Expect a learning curve for your team.

If your typical volume, and your budget, fall more in the middle of the spectrum, an analog room with a DR panel will still allow you to improve your image quality and scan times over the CR or film processing you might be using now, but at a much lower cost.


Picture of Tony Baggett

Tony Baggett

Tony Baggett is an X-Ray Product Manager at Block Imaging. Tony assists imaging centers, hospitals, and orthopedic centers in their purchases of x-ray equipment. When he’s not serving customers, Tony can be found hunting, fishing, and camping with his wife, son, and daughter.