Flat Panel Detector vs Image Intensifier: Which One Should I Buy?

January 13, 2021

We know it can be hard to decide which C-arm you should buy because there are so many different models and specifications to choose from! We have to say, deciding whether you buy a C-arm with a flat panel detector or image intensifier is critical because it’s an essential part of the C-arm. It’s up to you to decide which one you want. However, there are some things you should know before you choose. 

A C-arm comprises a generator (x-ray source) and a detector (flat panel detector or image intensifier).  The generator produces the X-rays, which target the patient’s body, and then the detector changes the x-rays into the images the doctor views. 

Image intensifiers were launched in the 1950s. Flat panel detectors made their debut roughly 50 years after image intensifiers in the 2000s. Ziehm was the first to make Flat panel detectors available in 2006. Image intensifiers were popular back in the day. However, nowadays, more and more C-arms are being made with flat panel detectors instead of the traditional image intensifiers.

C-Arm Considerations

Imaging quality

One of the most important factors that can help you decide whether you need a flat panel detector or image intensifier is the image quality. The C-arm you buy needs to produce high-quality images to help visualize bodily structures. Even though imaging quality can vary due to several factors, you will find flat panel detectors with superior imaging quality than image intensifiers. 

Apart from that, you’ll find that flat panel detectors come in one size. While image intensifiers are available in two sizes (9” or 12”). Flat panel detectors cover an increased field of view compared to image intensifiers. Each time you increase the magnification on an image intensifier, you will lose out on the field of view. Therefore, flat panel detectors allow the radiologist to view more of the patient’s body during scans and surgeries, helping them conduct their job more efficiently.


Image intensifiers have a long tube, whereas flat panel detectors are mostly flat, making the flat panel detector more compact than an image intensifier. Due to its smaller nature, radiologists have more room to manoeuvre during scans and procedures. Having extra space to work might be especially beneficial when radiologists have larger patients and need the extra room to move around.

Radiation exposure

Radiation exposure emitted by imaging systems can increase the risk of getting cancer. Even though the cancer risk has been minimized as much as possible, there is still a small risk.  Fortunately, each year new and improved systems are being developed that help to reduce radiation exposure to patients and radiologists.

According to various research studies, flat panel detectors emit less radiation than image intensifiers. Researchers estimate this could be HALF the radiation dose, making flat panel detectors safer for the patient and radiologist.


One of the biggest deciding factors in buying a C-arm is your budget! So, it would help to know about pricing. Having higher quality images and reduced radiation exposure comes at a higher price. Image intensifiers are usually 2-3 x cheaper than flat panel detectors, making them an affordable option.

However, flat panel detectors will become more affordable over time. The cost of flat panel detectors will reduce once they become more mainstream, and parts become available for them.


An image intensifier produces high-quality images. However, the image quality will begin to deteriorate after a few years - image intensifiers can last approximately five years. In comparison, a flat panel detector will provide you with excellent images over the years. Flat panel detectors don’t deteriorate as fast as image intensifiers. So, you can expect a flat panel detector to last longer than an image intensifier.

However, as image intensifiers have been around longer than flat panel detectors, the parts for image intensifiers are more widely available. Therefore, you can easily enhance your image intensifiers’ lifespan with regular servicing and changing parts when any issues arise.  

C-Arm Summary

The flat panel detector and image intensifier both have excellent imaging capabilities. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but they both work well for C-arms! Whether you should buy a flat panel detector or an image intensifier entirely depends on your clinical needs and budget.

If you are looking for a C-arm on a lower budget, then image intensifiers would be a good choice for your needs. If you can stretch your budget a little more, then you can get a C-arm with a flat panel detector, helping you reduce radiation exposure and improving image quality.

We hope our comparison has helped you decide which type of C-arm to buy. At Mazree, we often have C-arms with image intensifiers and flat panel detectors available on our smart auction listing. If you are interested, you can easily find yourself a C-arm today by clicking here.

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