We hear it all the time in the x-ray business, “I want to upgrade to digital x-ray and I need all new x-ray equipment”. Many sales people would love for you to believe this so they can sell you all new equipment. The truth is that in almost every situation this is just plain not true. In some situations new x-ray equipment might be desirable and sometimes even recommended but the truth is that any existing x-ray machine can produce digital images. The reason for this is simple. The digital portion of x-ray imaging is not contained in the x-ray beam itself, it’s achieved in the image receptor. The image receptor is the panel that takes the place of the film and cassette and houses the electronic circuitry that captures the x-ray beam, converts it to digital and displays it on a computer screen.
So to upgrade to digital imaging it becomes a matter of replacing the film and cassette with a digital capture device. There are two main styles of digital imaging, Computed Radiography (CR) and Direct Radiography (DR) that accomplish the same thing but in different ways, but that’s another subject. The digital capture device doesn't care if the x-ray beam is produced by an old or new x-ray generator because x-ray is x-ray.
As stated earlier sometimes it is recommended to replace the x-ray generator also. This is usually recommended to replace old technology generators with new high frequency generators because they do a much better job of penetrating the patient and allow the tech to image larger patients with better results. This can also be recommended because some of the early model CR systems required more x-ray dose to accomplish the same results as film. This doesn’t seem to be the case with some of the newer versions of CR.
If it’s time to convert to digital x-ray don’t get sold on the belief that you have to buy new x-ray equipment also. Remember that digital x-ray comes from the capture device, not the x-ray beam.