According to a report from Markets and Markets, the diagnostic imaging market is expected to reach nearly $36.43 billion by 2021, at a CAGR of 6.6 percent from 2016 to 2021. The report notes that technological advancements in diagnostic imaging modalities are driving the growth of this market across the globe.1
With these advancements have come improved patient care. “Medical imaging has led to improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of numerous medical conditions in children and adults,” says market research firm Kalorama Information. It further indicates that the use of digital x-rays has displaced film-based x-ray systems. “In the United States, the digital x-ray market segment has overtaken film x-ray systems in terms of system revenue,” it says.2
X-ray devices dominated the global medical imaging market and are expected to continue to do so with a market share of 29.36 percent by 2021, says Infinium Global Research. It projects the market size just for x-ray devices to grow at a CAGR of 5 percent between 2016 and 2021. “X-ray imaging is the oldest form of medical imaging, while it has evolved multifold in order to make diagnosis and treatment more reliable. With advancements in this segment, digital x-ray and 3D x-ray have become a trend in the recent past. Moreover, advanced x-ray systems help reduce the radiation dose,” it says.3
So, what’s driving this growth? Improving image quality and lowering x-ray intensity have been the key drivers of advances in x-ray machine development for some time. Now, the advent of powerful processors on embedded motherboards is enabling even faster processing than ever before, improving graphics performance and increasing computing power. These developments have been complemented by advances in high-performance medical-grade touch panel PCs that allow wide-angle viewing and produce ultra-high-resolution images.
Digital x-ray images help doctors improve their diagnosis, and minimizing the intensity of the x-ray lowers patient exposure to radiation. But these data-intensive functions require significant computing power to deliver this performance. Once delivered to the display, everything from high contrast ratios to antireflective surfaces are needed to enhance the user experience. Embedded motherboards must be highly customizable and powerful enough to meet these challenges. Depending on the type of device and the functionality needed, motherboards must be specifically designed for each medical device. Likewise, medical touch panel PCs must be integrated into the x-ray system in order to rapidly display high-resolution images while offering convenient, intuitive, and reliable operation.
Today’s embedded motherboards for medical applications are designed to process large amounts of data rapidly and accurately. The latest motherboards are driven by high-performance Intel® Core™ I, Celeron®, or the low-power consumption Atom™ processors, producing processing and data transfer speeds that have enabled these systems to quickly render complex calculations, 3D-imagery, and analytical diagnostic functions. High-resolution images can be obtained with advanced graphic engine and image enhancement functions for improved diagnostics in radiology. For example, Axiomtek’s MANO500 offers high-performance sixth-generation Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3, Pentium® or Celeron® processors with high memory capacity and rich I/O options for customization of the medical device. The CEM500 motherboard offers the high-performance and scalable sixth-generation Intel Core™ i7/i5/i3 processors and accelerated data transfer capabilities with four SATA-600 interfaces. RAID 0/1/5/10 provides support for data storage reliability.
These boards can be customized to suit medical device manufacturer requirements or to satisfy system integration parameters. Additional functionality is possible with optional interfaces and ports for USB, DIO, PCI Express, and/or Gigabit LAN. Another important consideration is to determine which form factor is most appropriate for the application. Options include 3.5-in. (CAPA), COM Express, Mini-ITX, Pico-ITX, and more.
The robust construction and long product life cycle of these motherboards make them suitable for many medical applications, and are particularly well suited to x-ray machines. When used for x-ray machine control, they can modulate the radiation dosage, continuously adjusting the x-ray intensity to reflect the specific size of the target on the patient’s body in order to lower the chances of causing radiation sickness or increasing the patient’s risk of developing radiation-induced cancer. When processing data for images, these motherboards carry out noise reduction and image enhancement functions.
Medical Touch Panel PCs
Medical-certified touch panel PCs are high-performance graphical display units characterized by excellent reliability, ease of use, and high-quality images. Their low noise operation and rugged designs make them suitable for use as x-ray image displays, as well as nursing carts interfaces, point-of-care terminals, and many other medical applications. The ability to run various operating systems and the ability of many different software tools make it easy to integrate these feature-rich medical-grade touch panel PCs into hospital systems or existing networks.
Touch panel PCs specifically designed for medical use must be certified to UL 60601-1/EN 60601-1, CE, and FCC Class B to satisfy the critical safety and electrical requirements of the medical industry. To ensure that these displays are protected from dust and spills, medical-grade touch panel PCs are often designed with high-ingress font bezels as well as IPX1 antimicrobial enclosures to prevent bacterial invasion.
Advances in active-matrix LCD technology have enabled the development of full HD thin-film-transistor (TFT) LCD displays, resulting in a 10-point multitouch screen. Various screen sizes with options for projected capacitive or five-wire resistive touch screens provide the flexibility needed to find the best match for the application, while flexible wireless communication options allow for effective capturing and transferring of critical medical data.
For example, Axiomtek’s medical-grade touch panel PCs (MPC product line) can be customized to fit almost any application with options that meet many different operational requirements. The MPCs are portable, enabling medical professionals to access images and patient data from anywhere. These displays provide isolated I/O function, eliminating disruptions, increasing signal quality, and ensuring stable operation, all critical requirements for medical equipment.
The Axiomtek MPC175-873, for example, has a 17-in. high-resolution (350 nits brightness) SXGA LC screen. The MPC225-873 is a 22-in. slim TFT fanless medical-grade panel computer. Both have scalable CPU options and Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3 or Celeron® processors.
Specially designed for the medical environment, they use the IPX1 waterproof design, which protects the entire system from outside liquid, thus preventing the system from crashing. The MPC225-873 also integrates the isolated COM/USB/LAN port design, which provides electric leakage protection in medical environments. Optional Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n) allows wireless real-time connection of patient records for assessment. To improve treatment accuracy, optional radio-frequency identification offers an efficient way to validate patient identification and give proper and accurate treatment.