In zoo and wildlife medicine and research, X-rays are not used frequently for diagnostics,
mostly due to the lack of electrical power in the field and the weight of common X-ray units.
A battery powered, small, and lightweight X-ray unit could be a great advantage for wildlife
research or zoo and wildlife medicine.
In this study the portable, battery operated X-ray unit PORT-X II, originally developed for
dentistry, was tested for its limiting factors when used in the field for research and for
diagnostics in zoo and wildlife medicine.
In September 2010, radiographs of different kinds of animals, ranging in weight from 14 g to
approximated 1000 kg, were taken using different settings including mainly the source image
distance (SID) and the exposure time. Subsequently the image quality was evaluated
regarding resolution of detail, image noise, and motion blur.
X-rays taken freehand were compared to X-rays taken when the unit was stabilized on a
tripod. The capacity of the rechargeable battery was tested under practical conditions at room
temperature as well as at lower temperatures in a refrigerated room. Furthermore the
maximum size of the radiographic image obtainable and the multiple use of a single digital Xray
cassette were tested.
When using a SID of 60 cm, radiographs showed adequate image quality down to the shortest
exposure time of 0.01 seconds. A reduction of image quality was found in images of larger
animals which was prominent in the abdominal radiographs of an un-anesthetized 50 kg red
deer calf. All images could be processed digitally and therefore most of them were of
Since no difference in image quality was observed whether using a tripod or not, the use of
the tripod was abandoned.
Under practical conditions the battery was depleted after 1 hour and 40 minutes of total
running time or 36 radiographs taken. At lower temperatures the battery depleted faster.
The maximum size of the radiographic image worth aiming for in the field appeared to have a
diameter of 40 cm. Multiple use of one single X-ray cassette is possible when covering the
unused areas with some kind of lead cover.
The results of this study indicate that the PORT-X II X-ray unit is an easy to use, lightweight
and convenient X-ray device which mostly provides radiographs of adequate quality. It is
therefore seen as a good compromise between transportability and radiograph quality suitable for wildlife research or zoo and wildlife medicine under field conditions. However, the
PORT-X II cannot replace the standard X-ray systems used in veterinary clinics with respect
to the low output and consequently to the quality assurance in larger animals, thicker body
parts, or the details in abdominal areas.