DICOM adjusts to future shock with new CT, MR objects

June 3, 2005

The venerable DICOM CT and MR image objects are now more than 10 years old, outdated by comparison with the rapidly advancing capabilities of CT and MR technologies.

The venerable DICOM CT and MR image objects are now more than 10 years old, outdated by comparison with the rapidly advancing capabilities of CT and MR technologies.

Consequently, much of the important information needed to support advanced applications is not represented in standard attributes in DICOM encoded images. This lack compromises the ability to connect equipment from different vendors, said Dr. Bradley J. Erickson, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Important data elements are not standard.

"DICOM is not perfect," Erickson said. "I can't process or display these elements across vendor system."

A concerted effort under way will enhance DICOM to include a new family of CT and MR objects. The Society for Computer Applications in Radiology, the National Electrical Manufacturer's Association, and DICOM are working with vendors to provide tools and an infrastructure for developing, testing, validating, and demonstrating the new objects. Those test tools and sample images, along with open source code not yet publicly accessible, will become available after the 2005 SCAR meeting.

David Clunie, chief technology officer of RadPharm and a member of the industry development team responsible for enhancing DICOM, reported on the progress DICOM has made to catch up with new technological development.

"The key goal here is that organization of CT and MR images enables greater interoperability of the application," he said.

Clunie said the original DICOM CT object contained 18 attributes, none of them mandatory for vendors, and four terms, two of which were enumerated - meaning all vendors must comply.

"The enhanced CT object has 41 attributes, 39 of them mandatory, and 86 terms, 18 of them enumerated," he said.

Progress was similar for MR. The original object defined 44 attributes, only two of them mandatory, and 38 terms, nine of which were enumerated.

"The enhanced DICOM MR object includes 103 attributes, 94 of them mandatory, and 228 terms, 47 enumerated," Clunie said.