American College of Radiology (ACR) and National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) developed a standard for medical imaging and now it’s known as DICOM. DICOM is widely used by medical professionals all over the world to store, exchange, and transfer medical images. It’s very popular and revered. We will give you a brief idea about what is DICOM and its importance to the medical world.
A Brief Introduction to DICOM
DICOM’s full form is Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine. It’s an international standard to transfer and receive and manage medical data. It’s not merely a file format for images, rather it’s a standard that dictates the data transfer, archiving and display protocol for all types of medical images. DICOM is about the communication that takes place between two devices that exchange medical images.
In the early 1980s, it was very hard for anyone other than manufacturers to decode the images that the machines generated. Before PACS, radiology images were done with film. And it had problems like the image could only exist in one place, the image display could not be changed, etc. That’s when ACR and NEMA came together to develop this better standard for medical images.
DICOM’s Usage and its Importance
Any device that can create or import DICOM images can send to or receive from PACS. The DICOM standard is widely used by medical imaging equipment vendors like CT, X-Ray, MRI, US, MG, BD, etc. DICOM makes sure the interoperability of systems used to produce, store, share, display, send, query, process, retrieve and print medical images, as well as to manage related workflows are maintained.
Medical images are pivotal for doctors to decide what the patient is suffering from. The latest medical imaging technologies, using the DICOM standard, have made it easier and reduced the need for storage of physical image, rather medical images nowadays are stored digitally, whether on premise or in the cloud.
Importance of DICOM
DICOM has played a pivotal role in the development of modern radiological imaging. For medical image exchange (e.g. via portable media like a Pen drive), image compression, presentation, 3D visualization, and results reporting, DICOM has protocols. Images by themselves have very little to no use when it comes to diagnostic purposes. Existing image formats e.g. JPEG, PNG, BMP, etc. don’t have the ability to give information about the patient, and image acquisition parameters.
DICOM provides information about patients that is the key to manage, route and retrieve the medical images properly. Because of the DICOM standard, the patient data and can be stored and exchanged in a standardized way. Thanks to the DICOM standard, doctors have easier access to their patients’ data and can make informed decisions from anywhere in the world.
Everything standardized makes our lives easier. Imagine not having the metric system and how hard it would be for us. DICOM is similarly important for medical imaging. That doesn’t mean that every vendor uses the DICOM format. Some offer non-DICOM formats as well. But, the DICOM image viewer standard is the most used when it comes to medical imaging technology.