Laser Imagers: Hard Facts on Hard Copy

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hiit040706As a central component to the sharing of imaging data, laser imagers provide critically important functionality in radiology departments and free-standing imaging centers, whether printing to film or paper. Reliability, excellence in image quality, and compact size are some of the factors that clinicians evaluate in selecting the appropriate system for their needs and setting.

Image clarity a priority

Tom Waters, RT(R), staff technologist at Orthopedic Sports Medicine in North Broward, Fla., works in a center where clinicians provide care to professional team members from the Miami Dolphins and Florida Marlins. They experience a high volume of orthopedic x-rays using protocols that have been established by the respective professional organizations, such as the National Football League or Major League Baseball, that often require three to four views of specific anatomic structures. When a player has a “known” former injury, the examination of affected bones and joints becomes even more stringent. Typically their staff perform numerous physical exams, and imaging studies include views of shoulders, knees and elbows.

When it came to making the decision about a printer for their Agfa CR 75 unit, they consulted with other users and were told that they should consider a printer that would normally be used with CT or MRI because they require that high level of detail. 

“We saw we were losing information on a regular printer, and when we sent the images to a hospital with a high-resolution printer, we could see the information again,” Waters says. As they recognized that the detail they lost was not just subtle findings but significant and important data, they knew they had to select a printer that would meet their stringent requirements. “We couldn’t afford to lose information because we often ship our images to specialists in other areas for consultation.”

They used their need for high-resolution images as the basis of their selection of the Agfa DryStar 5302 to print films on blue or clear film. Blue-base film seems to be the physician preference.

Software-based approach

Forsyth Radiological Associates in Winston-Salem, N.C., employs 32 physicians in three free-standing imaging centers, all of which utilize the aycan paper print solution for multimodality diagnostic images.

Forsyth’s PACS administrator, Denise Beeson, explains that their physicians provide professional reading services for many local practices, and they have found aycan to be quite effective as a system used to communicate with referring physicians. They offer either CD or paper prints. “The feedback we have gotten from referring physicians is that they really like the paper and the flexibility it provides, because even with an 11X17 size, they can fold it and place it in a patient’s chart, or patients can easily take that with them to another physician.”

Besides that advantage, Beeson says their prints are used in the operating room, especially for those patients having a computed tomography angiography (CTA) study. The CTA 3D reconstructions can be printed in color on the Xerox printer and are an excellent reference for surgeons.

Beeson explains that they have configured their network so that each printer is attached to a print server that resides in their primary location and any PACS workstation can print DICOM through the print servers. Their Konica CR units as well as some 3D workstations are set up to print directly to the printer. Each imaging center has its own printer. “The actual printer is by Xerox and could be used as a network printer, but we have made it a dedicated image printer that no one can use it for other things.”

Aycan recommends a configuration that flows from the medical imaging modality image capture with DICOM print job output to the server where the aycan software converts that data into a Postscript print file that is sent to a certified aycan printer such as the Xerox WorkCentre M24 where the paper print is created.  The company notes that the cost of printing on paper is significantly less than the cost of printing to film.

Versatility in a compact unit

John Litchney, MBA, who has been a radiology administrator for 27 years notes several positive features for their Codonics Horizon Multi-media Imagers to print paper copies of a wide variety of imaging studies including neuro MRI and CT, orthopedics and pulmonary x-rays. They have been using Codonics imagers since 1999.

One of the features they appreciate is the compact size