Published 3/1/2011
Robert A. Audell, MD

Create your own “computerized” view box

Simple technique turns a computer monitor into a radiographic viewer

Wide dissemination of computers and digital media has had the effect of supplanting plain radiographs and radiographic view boxes in many orthopaedic offices. Nevertheless, orthopaedists will often be faced with the prospect of viewing “physical X-ray media.” For example, a patient may bring in old radiographs or “outside” films.

Alternatively, an orthopaedist will occasionally need a view box to shoot digital pictures for presentation purposes or to demonstrate plain films at a legal hearing. On these occasions, this simple, readily available method can be used to view and photograph radiographic films.

This technique simply repurposes a computer liquid crystal display (LCD) screen as a radiograph view box. No special skills are needed, nor is any significant manipulation of the basic operating system or desktop contents required.

Start with the monitor
A rotating computer monitor (19-inch or larger) with a 4:3 aspect ratio is preferable. The host computer should be running a version of Windows operating system. The Safari browser in Mac OS X does not support this technique.

First, locate the brightness control, usually on the bottom right of the monitor (Fig. 1), and increase the brightness to its maximum value. The modern LCD monitor will usually have a luminance value of 250 cd/m2 or greater, which is sufficient for use as a view box.

Next, open your browser (such as Internet Explorer or Firefox) to a blank page. With many browsers, you can type “about:blank” in the address bar and press enter to produce a blank white page.

Now, press the F11 key, which will enlarge the browser to cover the entire screen. Within several seconds, the border of the browser will disappear to the top of the monitor.

Finally, rotate the screen. (Note: rotating the screen prior to enlarging the browser will cause unpredictable mouse cursor behavior.) You can now place a radiograph on the screen for viewing (Fig. 2). If you need to temporarily attach the radiograph to the screen, you can do so using Post-It® self-stick flags. This should not damage or leave residue on the screen, the LCD monitor bezel, or the radiograph.

A standard 14-inch × 17-inch film fits almost perfectly on a 19-inch monitor in landscape rotation. When rotated, larger monitors (such as a 24-inch 4:3 aspect monitor) will show more of the radiograph but will also have a larger uncovered border at the bottom of the screen. If the film is too large to fit on the screen, simply shift it so you can see the desired position or hold the radiograph away from the monitor, so the monitor serves as a back light, enabling you to view the image.

To return the computer to its normal state, rotate the screen to the normal position, press F11, resize the browser window, and adjust the monitor brightness to its prior settings. Closing and reopening the browser will return the browser to its “home page.”

Photographing images
To take a digital picture with an LCD backlight, stand about 4 feet away from the monitor so that the bezel of the monitor is seen in the photograph. This will ensure that the photos display a minimal amount of moiré on the final image. After downloading the image from your camera to your computer, use a program such as Windows Paint (included in the “accessories” folder with the Windows Operating System) to open the image, which can then be rotated and cropped to the desired size (
Fig. 3).

Robert A. Audell, MD, is a spine and sports medicine specialist with Tower Orthopaedics in Beverly Hills, Calif. He can be reached at robertaudell@hotmail.com

References and Suggested Reading

Amidror I. The Theory of the Moiré Phenomenon: Volume I: Periodic Layers (Computational Imaging and Vision), Springer; 2nd ed. edition (June 19, 2009)

Ibrahim, KF; Newnes Guide to Television and Video Technology, Fourth Edition: The Guide for the Digital Age - from HDTV, DVD and flat-screen technologies to Multimedia Broadcasting, Mobile TV and Blu Ray [Paperback], Newnes; 4 edition (September 28, 2007)