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Portable X-rays Transform Medical Accessibility

By Joshua Yan Feb. 14, 2024

Mingyue Xiao Art

Amidst isolated towns of the world’s tundras and the forgotten villages of the African savanna, disease runs rampant, killing people before they can name their affliction. Until now, with the advent of portable X-rays, inhabitants have been forced to rely on the shoddy equipment of local facilities to make a guess about their sickness, as the trek to the nearest real hospital often takes far too long.

Healthcare quality has historically been lacking in the most remote areas of the world. In many regions, local facilities are lacking in adequate sanitation and sufficient resources, with costly x-ray rooms being few and far between. Among nomadic and displaced groups in developing nations, the distance from adequate hospitals means that it is nearly impossible for some to get x-rayed. When certain life-threatening diseases require an X-ray to be detected, this can mean the difference between life and death. 

Portable machines emerged as a remedy to these problems by bringing healthcare directly to patients. There are two variants of the machines: mobile and ultraportable. Mobile X-rays refer to wheeled machines, while ultraportable X-rays are small enough to be held by one person.

In many cases, portable X-rays utilize artificial intelligence to read the images, allowing diseases to be detected without formal facilities. This dramatically quickens the process and also increases accuracy in smaller machines.

The technology has had a profound impact on medical accessibility. In Scotland’s Orkney Islands, portable variants have reduced the non-attendance rate for X-ray appointments to zero. In countries like the Philippines and Nigeria, the devices are greatly improving tuberculosis detection, decreasing the figure of more than one million annual deaths that it causes.

Mingyue Xiao Art

The safety concerns regarding the devices lie in their lack of radiation shielding. Portable X-rays, like larger ones in hospitals, use concentrated bursts of radiation to create their images. Unlike their counterparts, however, portable variants lack measures to minimize patients’ radiation exposure. In hospitals, x-ray rooms have lead-lined walls to block the radiation, but it would be impossible to provide the same accommodation in a device created to be compact and mobile. Critics also argue that the cost remains too high. Despite being less expensive than their alternative, the price of an ultraportable X-ray machine can be anywhere between $47,000 and $66,000.

“The benefits of portable X-rays are definitely worth the drawbacks. The cost is around the price range of other normal medical equipment and I doubt the radiation is too much of a problem, especially since scans are done in open outdoor spaces,” Junior Ewan Bailey said.

Regardless of the criticism, though, the industry is expanding at an unprecedented rate. In 2023, the global market for portable X-rays was estimated to be worth $7.1 billion and is expected to grow to $14 billion by 2028.

“More data should be gathered about the radiation risk, but overall the technology is a very good and convenient idea. The next step would be to address actual treatment; being able to do x-rays outside of the hospital is good for diagnosis, but there is no point if patients have to travel to the hospital to be treated anyways,” Senior Andres O’Hara said.


About the Contributors

Joshua Yan

staff writer

Joshua Yan is a Junior at Leland High School and is a staff writer for The Charger Account. In his free time, he enjoys playing the piano, listening to music, and playing video games.

Mingyue Xiao


Mingyue Xiao is a freshman at Leland High School and is an artist for The Charger Account. She does dance, pottery and loves to read.

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