Have you wondered what the differences between analog and digital mammography machines are? Or about the main advantages and disadvantages of both types?
If yes, we believe that we can give you an answer.
But first a quick overview of what you can learn in this blog:
What is mammography?
Mammography is a specific type of breast imaging that uses low dose X-rays to detect cancer.
Furthermore, mammography machines continue to be the leading modality in the prevention and early detection of breast cancer. Mammography can detect changes in breast tissues up to two years before it is palpable.
Over the years, mammography systems have changed greatly.
Analog mammography machines were the standard for many years. However, in 2000, the FDA approved the first full-field digital mammography unit, which improved image quality dramatically.
Then, in 2011, the first 3D mammography unit was introduced. This type of mammography machine added further to the advancement and image quality.
In this blog post, we focus on analog and digital systems, however, 3D mammography units are becoming popular on the secondary market. Hence, if you’d like to learn about these, read about the pros and cons of tomosynthesis mammography.
What Are the Differences Between Analog and Digital Mammography Machines?
Analog mammography uses low dose radiation that produces high-quality X-rays and can detect tissue changes of 1-2mm in size.
It captures the X-ray beams on film cassettes, and the outcome is a film showing the breast from different angles, which is then hung on a viewing board.
Contrary to this, digital mammography captures X-ray beams on a digital detector.
This detector then converts the X-ray beams into electronic signals, which are transferred to a computer.
In the end, the computerized images are available for review on a specialized high-resolution monitor.
Furthermore, the digital images can be analyzed by radiologists using the options and tools of the console/workstation.
For instance – magnifying, masking of light, inverting (negative of the image), and comparing them to previously obtained mammograms.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Analog Mammography Machines
What Are the Disadvantages of Analog Mammography Machines?
- Analog images are less detailed than their digital counterparts.
- Analog mammography uses film. And thus, after obtaining the image, you need a CR reader (such as Fuji Capsula XL II – see picture) to convert the image into a digital one. As a result, it takes a longer time to receive the image.
- As there are two systems working together, if one breaks, the entire process will be “down.”
- It is more difficult to archive pictures produced by analog mammography machines unless you have a CR.
- The sales of analog mammography machines have been decreasing. Therefore, it can be a bit challenging to find parts for repairs if needed.
What Are the Advantages of Analog Mammography Machines?
- Analog mammography machines are more affordable than digital mammography machines.
- Analog images can be transformed into digital images with a CR and saved as DICOM.
- These machines do not have a digital detector, which is both fragile and expensive part, therefore, repairs are typically less costly.
- It is easy to find a company that will provide a service contract for analog mammography machines, as they are easier to maintain.
These are good arguments for analog mammography systems, for instance, the Hologic Lorad M-IV (Picture).
Advantages and Disadvantages of Digital Mammography Machines
What Are the Advantages of Digital Mammography Machines?
- More efficient workflow as the images are available immediately on the computer.
- A monitor in the room instantly displays the image, which allows for repositioning of patients if necessary and therefore leads to fewer retakes.
- The digital detector provides crisps images, even of larger breast.
- You can easily transfer images electronically to a central location for diagnosis (Utilizing Picture Archiving and Communications System PACS).
- Easy analysis of images.
- Radiation doses are 30-40% lower than for analog systems.
- Earlier detection of cancer, also in those with denser breasts.
- Finally, it works very well with Computer-Aided Detection (CAD) devices.
What Are the Disadvantages of Digital Mammography Machines?
- They are more expensive than analog mammography machines, see for yourself in our blog post about mammography machine cost.
- The digital detector is delicate and if it breaks, it is costly to repair.
- More sensitive to ambient temperatures than analog units.
- Digital mammography machines provide lower spatial resolution.
- As they are more difficult to service, some manufacturers prefer not to provide service contracts.
- In very large breasts, there might be a need to take the digital images a patchwork pattern, which is harder to read.
In conclusion, when choosing which type of mammography machine you want, you should consider the advantages and disadvantages and weigh them up against your needs. This way you will find out which machine best suits you and your situation.
At LBN Medical, we have been selling refurbished and used mammography machines since 2003. Therefore, if you have any other questions or concerns, you can get answers from our professional team.
Feel free to send us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at +45 96 886 500.