Digital echocardiography gets to the heart of the matter

September 25, 2000

Like feelers, the digital fingers of the PACS revolution have spread to medical specialties other than radiology. One finger has taken root in echocardiography. Some cardiologists believe that current video methods of viewing, transferring, and archiving

Like feelers, the digital fingers of the PACS revolution have spread to medical specialties other than radiology. One finger has taken root in echocardiography. Some cardiologists believe that current video methods of viewing, transferring, and archiving echocardiographic studies will soon be replaced exclusively by digital files.

"Videotape will be as old and obsolete as ditto, Polaroid, and mimeo," said Dr. William J. Stewart, an associate professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

Stewart's echo lab generates more than 32,000 studies per year, all stored on digital clips. Digital storage leads to more effective transfer of images from one place to another, without degradation of image quality, according to Stewart.

"The ease of access is tremendously enhanced, both for looking at the studies the first time and especially for comparing serial studies for changes in size or function. Within a few years, transfer of images over the Internet, by e-mail, and using optical disks and CD-ROMs will be the norm," he said.

Digital echocardiography received a vote of confidence in August when the technology was chosen to manage the images and reports collected for the massive Jackson Heart Study, a epidemiologic investigation of cardiovascular disease among African Americans in Jackson, MS.

The study, a joint project of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Tougaloo College, and Jackson State University, is the world's first large-scale prospective cardiovascular disease study focusing exclusively on African Americans. Approximately 6500 male and female subjects will be followed for the next 30 years.

Camtronics, headquartered in Milwaukee, will handle the digital echocardiography data using its VERICIS for Cardiology, an open-architecture information and image management system for digital cardiology applications.

For the Jackson Study, the system will acquire studies from four Hewlett Packard Sonos 4500 Echocardiography systems, which can then be reviewed at three VERICIS workstations, two at the Jackson State University Medical Mall and another connected via wide area network at the University of Mississippi Medical Center's main hospital campus.

The platform adheres to DICOM and HL7 standards, facilitating communication within the cardiology department and across the enterprise.