DVD archive drives filmless cardio system

December 18, 2000

A number of cardiologists have turned to digital video disk (DVD) technology as their preferred medium for long-term image archiving. DVD storage gives physicians immediate access to the cardiac x-ray examinations needed to diagnosis cardiovascular

A number of cardiologists have turned to digital video disk (DVD) technology as their preferred medium for long-term image archiving.

DVD storage gives physicians immediate access to the cardiac x-ray examinations needed to diagnosis cardiovascular disease, while concurrently providing secure data storage. Advocates claim DVD has a shelf life of over 100 years.

At current capacities, one DVD disk can store approximately 20 DICOM standard angiograms that can be viewed at any PC, providing a reliable, nonproprietary data medium.

"The impact of this technology in terms of expediting patient care is extraordinary," said Dr. Jeffrey S. Garrett, associate director of Western Pennsylvania Hospital's Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, which earlier this year became the nation's first cardiology department to install DVD technology.

"Imagine a cardiologist in the catheterization lab conferring with a surgeon who is viewing the patient's angiogram simultaneously from a computer in his office or some other location in the hospital," he said.

Such interaction would normally be delayed until the surgeon could get to the cath lab for consultation or until film processing has been completed and delivered.

"We now have the ability to eliminate the obstacles of time and distance when making decisions about the course of a patient's cardiovascular care," Garrett said.

Illustrating the trend toward DVD storage, Rhode Island Hospital in Providence has joined more than 50 other hospitals that installed Encompass Cardiac Network this year. The system is provided by Heartlab of Westerly, RI.

Heartlab's system can store up to 70,000 examinations in a space about the size of a refrigerator, and lets cardiologists retrieve archived exams in under 30 seconds, a rate the manufacturer claims is 10 times faster than competing technologies.

At Rhode Island Hospital, which performs more than 3500 cardiac catheterization procedures a year, the new network creates a central cardiac image repository connecting four cardiac catheterization labs. Doctors can access patients' angiograms from diagnostic review stations on the hospital's local area network.

The hospital's installation includes a Windows NT server that provides immediate access to 450 online cases, and a 14,000-case DVD image archive for long-term image storage. Six network-connected review stations are placed throughout the hospital to read the DICOM-compliant studies.

"Especially valuable has been the ability to review cases in clinical sites such as the coronary care unit," said Dr. David O. Williams, director of the cardiovascular lab and interventional cardiology at the hospital.