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Hospitals are flush with digital MRI and CT scanners, yet the granddaddies--x-ray machines--are still largely analog. Digital x-ray units are finally making inroads, however, and like digital cameras they are poised to replace century-old film technology.

Several imaging methods have arisen [see illustrations]. All work with a conventional x-ray generator, but rather than exposing film that must be developed with chemicals in a darkroom, the receivers create a digital image that is displayed on a screen. So-called direct and indirect approaches create an instant readout. The stimulable method traps x-rays in a portable cassette that is inserted into a separate reader.

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