Why Use X-Rays?
The management of a patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) is becoming a very important tool for medical professionals. For the busy chiropractic office, having these records available enhances patient care. It allows the office to have updated and accurate information right at their fingertips. There are many companies that provide digital X-ray systems for the office so that EHRs can contain this medical information more readily.
There are chiropractors who rely on X-rays as a standard procedure in order to determine where to adjust the spine and to help rule out various pathology. While it may not be necessary for every patient, X-rays can be particularly helpful in the case of traumatic injuries, elderly patients (with potential bone disease or arthritis), and in those people who have had long-term pain that has not been resolved by prior chiropractic therapy. X-rays are not usually used in cases where the chiropractor has found the injury or misalignment to be minor.1 Another valid clinical reason for X-rays would be to look for spinal abnormalities, such as tumors, degeneration, or fusion.2 Chiropractors can view bones, joints, soft tissues, muscles, and fat on the X-ray.
In order to reduce the slight risk of exposure to radiation that X-rays cause, chiropractors must have their equipment regularly inspected and deemed to be safe for operation. These days, special X-ray films and screens “dramatically reduce the radiation dose” as well. Chiropractors weigh the risks of X-rays with the benefits of the information that they can gather in order to formulate the best treatment. Not all patients receive X-rays. However, patients with fractures and infections or other potentially serious conditions, for example, may find benefit from them.3
Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons?
When receiving an X-ray from any medical practitioner, the patient should discuss with the professional who is providing their care the pros and cons of X-rays. First and foremost, X-rays should not be considered a regular thing. The average patient should not be going in to get their X-ray taken during every single visit to the chiropractic office. The chiropractor should have a real suspicion of an underlying problem that would truly need an X-ray to be identified, first. X-rays should not be performed just to identify soft tissue problems because they are only effective in the identification of pathology within bones and joints.
An MRI is generally needed to identify issues with the soft tissue. Those who are pregnant or have the possibility of being pregnant without yet knowing should not go in for an X-ray. In general, most patients who go in for chiropractic care might never even need an X-ray, with the exception of a few cases with valid reasons. It is just an option that is there just in case.4
There are many companies that make digital X-ray equipment specifically designed to be used by chiropractors. Digital X-rays are also one way to “go green”. One company, Custom X-Ray Digital, makes chiropractic systems that offer features such as eliminating the need for “cassettes, film, chemistry, automatic film processor, darkroom, film storage, and monthly maintenance”, systems for clinics of any size, and low-power/cost-effective systems.5
Lupica Medical Systems provides affordable options to serve any type of practice. Founded in 1984, it is an American-based company. They offer digital X-ray equipment with various configurations (i.e., Full spine, Tilt Wall Bucky, etc.), in addition to a variety of other accessories that the practitioner needs to perform the X-rays. They also have reader systems that are compact and lightweight. Lupica Medical Systems also installs on-site and provides additional system calibration, services, and radiation safety audits to the distributed X-ray systems.6
MedicExchange.com sells a variety of brands of chiropractic X-ray machines to serve the full range of chiropractic practice budgets. Their aim is to reduce healthcare costs. Patients could choose to find out if their chiropractor uses an X-ray machine and, if so, what brand is in use. The patient might then decide to research the brand of X-ray machine themselves to learn more about every aspect of care they receive.7
Medical Records and X-rays
Many of the EHR software companies today, such as E-Z BIS, Platinum System, and ChiroTouch, incorporate options in their systems to include digital X-rays as part of the patients’ healthcare records. The EHR improves patient care by allowing more easy access to records. The New England Journal of Medicine “found evidence that practices with EHR provided better quality care”.8 By including digital X-rays in the record, patients can have a more robust EHR, and the risk of repeated X-rays and duplicate treatments can be reduced. These X-rays can be shared with the patient’s medical doctor and other healthcare professionals to save both the patient’s and the practitioners’ time, so that they could spend more time working together towards treatment of the patient’s ailments.