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Our Stories

From minutes to seconds: New mobile X-ray units are 120x faster

Toronto, September 23, 2014

By James Wysotski

Terry Tang Poy sets up the DRX
Terry Tang Poy sets up the DRX Revolution digital mobile X-ray. (Photo by Katie Cooper)

Since January, Trauma Unit doctors requesting immediate X-rays have received unprecedented turnaround times. With the acquisition of two DRX Revolution digital mobile units, wait times for images dropped from about eight minutes to four seconds.

“It's phenomenal how fast we can deliver that service,” said Terry Tang Poy, the quality control technologist for Medical Imaging. “Physicians can act on what they see right away.”

Tang Poy likens the new machines to digital cameras because their images are virtually instant. Unlike the system they replace, there’s no transportation time after the X-rays are taken. No one has to run cassettes back to Medical Imaging for processing while patients wait back on the unit. So, if doctors require multiple retakes, it’s just another four seconds per request. That’s precious time saved. The impact is most evident in situations such as line and tube placements where doctors can see right away if everything is in place. Less waiting time means less discomfort for patients.

Originally, the mobile units were meant to replace the Trauma Unit’s dedicated, stationary device. The second machine was to ensure the unit didn’t have any down time, but the increased efficiency freed it up to be used on the floor and in operating rooms. And it is outside of the Trauma Unit where the greatest change occurred.

“The DRX is revolutionary because it actually changes the workflow quite a bit,” said Tang Poy, who was instrumental in selecting the units and putting them into service. “It eliminates a couple of [delivery and processing] steps. Since January, it’s taken over the workload of 80 per cent of our [older] floor portables.”

Dr. Henry Ahn, an orthopedic surgeon, said overall costs decrease since there isn’t as much time “wasted.” He recounted waiting 25 minutes recently to get an X-ray while using an older unit. If using the DRX, the time saved “means that another case can get done during the day.”

The DRX “should be the standard. There should be a dedicated operating room machine,” said Dr. Henry Ahn.

Dr. Ahn likes the DRX’s bigger field of view, improved clarity and that it reduces dose radiation by 50 per cent. Since the images are localized, patients get fewer X-rays.

Dr. Ahn isn’t the only surgeon who’s a DRX enthusiast. Tang Poy said there’s a huge demand for the mobile floor unit in operating rooms.

“They’re demanding it,” said Tang Poy. “They’re basically saying ‘don’t come in here without that unit,’ and it’s very hard to provide that service at this point.”

But who can blame surgeons for asking? Using them, surgeons can make decisions faster and that means earlier interventions in critical moments. Patients are the big winners here.

The DRX units “definitely exceeded expectations,” said Tang Poy. “I’d love to see another one.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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