ALI mini-PACS supports dual digital standards

November 3, 1993

The development of picture archiving and communications systemsfor ultrasound has been marked by a conflict between competingdigital imaging standards. While many vendors are lining up behindACR-NEMA's digital imaging and communications in medicine

The development of picture archiving and communications systemsfor ultrasound has been marked by a conflict between competingdigital imaging standards. While many vendors are lining up behindACR-NEMA's digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM)version 3.0 standard, others are promoting the data exchange fileformat (DEFF) as an interim solution until DICOM 3.0 is completed(SCAN 9/8/93).

Ultrasound PACS developer Advanced Light Imaging Technologies(ALI) has chosen the best of both worlds. ALI's UltraPACS ultrasoundimage management system will support both DICOM and DEFF, accordingto president and CEO Christopher Hanna.

ALI of Burnaby, British Columbia, received Food and Drug Administration510(k) marketing clearance in June for UltraPACS. The companyhas kept a low profile since then, but plans to change that approachwith a major marketing push to coincide with the RadiologicalSociety of North America meeting this month.

"We've just started adding good marketing people to presentourselves to the community in a better fashion," Hanna said."It's worked quite well with word-of-mouth, but now it'stime to raise our profile."

ALI's system uses a DEC workstation running on a Unix operatingsystem, according to Hanna. Images are archived to write-onceread-many (WORM) optical disks, with output interfaces to Kodaklaser printers and other peripheral devices.

The company characterizes UltraPACS as a file cabinet for ultrasoundimages, as opposed to more elaborate image archiving and processingsystems under development by scanner vendors such as Acuson andATL.

"We don't profess to be what the ultrasound companiesare, which is really good at generating and processing images,"Hanna said. "What we are good at is moving them around andstoring them and retrieving them and so on."

ALI has installed the system at five sites in the U.S. andCanada, according to the company. The list price of a full systemfor an ultrasound department with three or four scanners is about$100,000 (U.S.).

ALI has set up a distribution network for the product. Thecompany is also marketing the system through scanner vendor Diasonics,which displayed UltraPACS at its booth at last year's RSNA meeting.(SCAN 12/16/92).

While ALI is part of the group of vendors developing the DICOMstandard, it has decided to also support DEFF.

"Our opinion is that we shouldn't be an arbiter of standards,"said Len Grenier, vice president of technology. "If thereis a community out there that wants to use DEFF, and I believethere is, and a community out there that has to exist in a broaderPACS environment and needs DICOM, then we really need to supportboth."

Incorporating the two standards into UltraPACS is relativelysimple, Grenier said. DEFF is intended to allow transport of ultrasoundimages using removable media such as optical disks, while DICOMis being developed as a protocol for network-based image transport,both of ultrasound images and images from other modalities. ALIhas not yet completed its work on DEFF but intends to do so inthe near future.

Ironically, ALI has benefited from much of the attention ultrasoundmini-PACS has garnered since the unveiling of competitor Acuson'sAegis image management system at last year's RSNA conference (SCAN10/21/92). The fact that a major scanner vendor is developingan image management system brought legitimacy to the concept,Grenier said.

"Over the last year to year-and-a-half this concept ofdepartmental ultrasound PACS has gotten a lot more acceptance,"Grenier said. "To a large extent Acuson really brought alot of attention to the area. That has certainly helped us."