Improvise with an iPhone? DIY X-Ray Imaging

Posted on January 24, 2011 | by Kim

Need to see a cavity? There's an app for that (it's called Flashlight)

You sent a bunch of x-ray films to a local scanning vendor recommended by a colleague at your firm. Now you’re in Tuscaloosa prepping the treating physician who will describe an injury using the x-rays on screen.  That’s when you realize the electronic images you’d planned on projecting in court may as well be a Rorschach test that ran through a fax machine. The detail is just gone.

Contrast is key to reading x-rays, and there are vendors out there – some actually specialize in radiographic imaging – who provide good enough electronic output. But if you haven’t found a reliable shop with someone who understands your needs, or if you’re on the road with limited resources, you may end up with muddy images that just don’t cut it. Original x-rays are hard enough for Julie Juror to understand, even while a doctor interprets the various shading, but pop up a second or third generation scan in a bright courtroom with lights above the screen, and your expert ends up testifying to a barely discernible problem.

Here’s an idea: improvise with a makeshift light table and digital camera. You’ll be surprised by the quality of the contrast, and the best part is – it’s free! Here are three techniques that anyone can pull off.

  • Use an LCD monitor with a white background (a blank Word doc or PPT Slide) and tape the film to the screen. Get as close as you can with the camera, but beware that getting too close causes the camera to pick up pixels that will give the image a dotted pattern
  • For smaller images, like tiny intraoral dental films we all love having done to check for cavities, the Retina Display of an iPhone with a flashlight app (at full brightness) works remarkably well. Since the pixels are denser than an LCD monitor, they don’t show up even when the camera is in macro mode (usually represented by a little flower icon) just a few inches from the x-ray.
  • Turn a frosted glass desk into a light table by putting a lamp under it.  This is the hardest way, but it’s a good option for larger films. You’ll likely need to diffuse the light further with an additional translucent layer over the glass (something thinner than paper like static dry erase sheets).
  • So there you go, a few simple tricks that work with minimal hassle and expense.

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