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Digital vs. Analog Mammography


Just as consumers today have to decide between analog and digital television sets, so, too, do physicians and radiology centers have to choose between analog and digital mammography units, with the latter rapidly gaining ground in imaging centers around the country.

As of late 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had cleared four digital mammography units for clinical usethe Senographe 2000D Full-Field Digital Mammography systems, approved in January 2000 and manufactured and marketed by GE Health Systems; the SenoScan, approved in Sept 2001 and manufactured and marketed by Fischer Imaging; and the LORAD LDBI, approved in March 2002 and Hologic/Lorad Selenia Full Field Digital Mammography (FFDM) System, approved in October 2002, both manufactured and marketed by Lorad/Hologic. Fuji-Film Medical Systems is also pursuing a digital system.

Like analog mammography, digital mammography is basically an x-ray of the breast used for both screening and diagnosis. Patients notice no difference between the two forms, as the breast is squeezed between two plates and x-rays pass through the breast tissue.

Unlike traditional mammography, however, which uses film as both a receptor and a display for the image to produce static, fixed images, digital mammography uses detectors (similar to those found in digital cameras) that change the x-rays into electrical signals. These signals are then transferred to a digital receptor that converts the x-ray energy to numbers, processes the numbers, and produces an image that can be displayed on a monitor or printed on a high-resolution laser printer.

Digital detectors create an electronic image as pixels, either indirectly or directly. They use either charge-coupled devices (CCDs), flat-panel arrays or computed radiography cassettes. CCDs are self-scanning devices that provide an electronic readout of an image produced by a scintillator. Electrons, whose numbers are related to the image *produ
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