What is the Difference Between Image Intensifier and Flat Panel Detector C-Arms?

C-Arm technology has steadily evolved since the 1950s. Now, two types of mini c-arms exist: machines with image intensifiers or digital flat panel detectors. Even though both devices seek to solve the same problem, they work in completely different ways to provide quality medical images. These differences are vital when choosing which device to use in your medical facility.

What is an Image Intensifier C-Arm?

An image intensifier c-arm is a medical imaging device commonly used in fluoroscopy-guided procedures and surgeries. It consists of three main components: an x-ray source, an image intensifier, a camera, computer and a display monitor.

The x-ray source emits a controlled dose of x-rays, which pass through the patient’s body and are captured by the image intensifier. The image intensifier is a specialized vacuum tube that converts the photons into visible light. It amplifies the intensity of the image, making it brighter and easier to visualize for the camera.

The intensified camera image is then displayed on a monitor in real-time, allowing medical professionals to view the internal structures of the patient’s body during the procedure. The c-arm is highly maneuverable and can be adjusted to capture images from various angles and orientations, providing real-time imaging guidance during surgeries, interventions, and other minimally invasive procedures.

The use of an image intensifier c-arm offers several advantages in medical procedures. It allows for dynamic imaging, meaning the image is continuously updated as the procedure progresses, providing real-time feedback. This enables physicians to precisely guide instruments, monitor implant placement, and visualize a procedure’s progress.

Additionally, the c-arm’s mobility and flexibility allow it to be positioned around the patient, providing imaging access from different angles and orientations. This versatility is instrumental in orthopedic surgeries, cardiovascular interventions, pain management procedures, and other minimally invasive surgeries.

Examples of C-arms with Image Intensifiers

C-arm manufacturers have, over time, developed an impressive line-up of mini c-arm models that bring together unique features to provide excellent image quality in a versatile and efficient way. Here are two popular mini c-arm models with image intensifiers.

1. Orthoscan HD

The Orthoscan HD gives medical professionals a clearer “live” image that is often larger than any of its competitors. Thanks to its image resolution, arc depth, and vertical range enables this c-arm to detect even the smallest fractures and injuries. The system can also seemlessly integrate with your medical practice’s existing infrastructure, meaning you can easily purchase and begin using this impressive image intensifier c-arm.

2. Hologic Fluoroscan InSight 2

The Hologic Fluoroscan InSight 2 stands out as a top-notch fully digital mini c-arm. It delivers unparalleled performance and ultra-fine imaging. It delivers exceptional image clarity with virtually zero blurriness or distortion. Its compact size and design also makes the Hologic InSight 2 easily movabe throughout any medical facility.

What is a Digital Flat Panel C-Arm?

A flat panel c-arm is a type of c-arm system used in medical imaging. It is an advanced version of the traditional image intensifier-based c-arm, but with a flat panel detector (FD) instead of the image intensifier.

Unlike the image intensifier, which converts x-ray photons into visible light and then with the use of a digital camera converts the image to a digital signal , the flat panel detector directly captures and converts x-ray photons into digital signals.

This direct digital imaging technology offers several advantages over image intensifier-based systems, including:

  • Image quality
  • Workflow efficiency
  • Dose reduction
  • Larger field of view
  • Significant size and weight reduction

Flat panel c-arms are commonly used in various medical applications, including orthopedic surgeries, vascular interventions, cardiac procedures, pain management, and other minimally invasive surgeries.

Examples of Flat Panel Detectors

Some popular models of the mini c-arm that are flat panels include:

1. Hologic Fluoroscan InSight FD

The Hologic Fluoroscan InSight FD mini c-arm delivers unrivaled imaging and cutting-edge technology. It is the first fluoroscopy machine to include a rotating 15.0 cm x 12.0 cm flat panel detector. Its impressive rotation range of -90 to 90 degrees gives doctors and other medical professionals the ability to obtain more comprehensive and precise imaging than ever.

2. Orthoscan FD

Like the aforementioned Hologic InSight FD, the Orthoscan FD includes an impressive 15.0 cm x 12.0 cm flat detector. Its outstanding 2k x 1.5k image resolution provides exceptional image quality for any and all extremities. This machine has revolutionized the way healthcare providers can work.

Comparing Image Intensifier and Flat Panel Machines

Interestingly, many c-arm manufacturers now opt for flat panel detectors over image intensifiers. Should this widespread adoption, therefore, mean that image intensifiers are no longer useful? The answer is not as straightforward as it would seem.

When deciding between an image intensifier and a flat panel mini c-arm, you must consider many aspects of each machine before making an informed decision.

Image Degradation

Over time, image intensifiers may suffer from degradation, resulting in decreased image quality. Factors such as reduced brightness, distortion, and loss of contrast can affect image interpretation.

Inversely, flat panel detectors offer consistent image quality throughout their lifespan, as there is no degradation in brightness or contrast over time. They provide high-quality images without the risk of degradation associated with image intensifiers.


There is a notable difference between the two devices when imaging small structures. Flat panels produce higher contrast resolution than image intensifiers. For this reason, flat panels produce a more accurate view of small anatomical structures than image intensifiers, especially if the image intensifier has been in use for a long time.

Field of View and Coverage

Image intensifiers often have a smaller field of view and coverage area, limiting the amount of anatomy that can be imaged in a single acquisition. Although there are certain situations where precision and a small field of view can be beneficial, this isn’t always the case.

On the other hand, flat panel detectors generally offer a larger field of view and coverage area, allowing for imaging of a broader region in a single acquisition. This is particularly advantageous in procedures requiring a wide imaging range.


As previously mentioned, there are situations where precision and a smaller field of view can be helpful for practitioners. Image intensifiers can provide higher magnification levels than flat panel detectors, allowing for detailed visualization of specific regions of interest. This makes them an ideal option for minor, highly magnified image needs.


Flat panel detectors are generally more compact and have a smaller footprint, making them suitable for limited-space environments. Inversely, Image intensifiers are larger and require more space for installation. They may be ideal for facilities with ample room for equipment placement.


Image intensifiers have been manufactured for a long time and manufacturing yields are much higher than that of flat panel detectors. They are also based on two totally different technologies, the Image intensifier uses an analog approach along with a digital camera and the flat detector is a very large camera with a scintillator to do the x-ray to light conversion. Therefore they are less expensive than flat panel detectors.

Still Unsure? Let Minicarm.com Help You Decide

Minicarm.com is a leading provider of used and refurbished fluoroscopy medical equipment for healthcare facilities and providers. We offer excellent products at a competitive price point, plus maintenance and service plans for all of our c-arms. We sell a wide variety of image intensifiers and flat panel detector mini c-arms, and we’re committed to helping you select the best purchase based on your needs and budget.

If you need help deciding what mini c-arm will be a best fit for your healthcare facility, contact us today so our sales team can walk you through all of the available options.

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