PACS tool treats image overload disorder

June 22, 2004

Study downloading times are about to slim down. A new PACS software tool developed by researchers in Canada promises to speed up the process by displaying an overview of a large image series, allowing the user to select images for priority

Study downloading times are about to slim down. A new PACS software tool developed by researchers in Canada promises to speed up the process by displaying an overview of a large image series, allowing the user to select images for priority downloading.

The advent of spiral CT scanners created more than just enormous studies encompassing thousands of images. It also created problems for PACS by clogging networks connecting scanner, server, and workstation.

The iScout (intelligent scout) described in the June issue of the Journal of Digital Imaging (J Digit Imaging 2004;17(2):109-119) allows radiologists to reduce the delays associated with downloading hundreds or thousands of images, said Robert Rohling, Ph.D., an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of British Columbia.

Radiologists can wait several minutes to download an especially large study. Normally, images come in the order dictated by scanner sequence or archive storage. Now, radiologists can use the software to download images in order of preference.

"The program allows the order to be customized to specific needs of the users," Rohling said.

Further development of the software will include determining the level of "intelligence" the program will have when deciding what "best" images to download first.

"There are several different logic schemes, and it remains to be seen which are optimal for a given hospital or radiologist application," he said.

The study reports on several schemes that semiautomatically manage the download process, along with tests to measure performance. Test results confirm that priority downloading provides faster access to images in a large image series and that the time savings increases in proportion to the study size.

Future research is aimed at anatomy-based retrieval of data. Here, the intelligent aspects of the software focus on allowing radiologists to download images from a particular part of the anatomy first, instead of simply waiting for them to be eventually downloaded, according to Rohling.

Even though network speeds may improve in the future, the size of the studies will also likely increase, so access times will remain an issue for the foreseeable future.

"We believe that adding a degree of control to access data according to anatomy or some other personal preferences is an intelligent way to go," Rohling said.

The study was conducted for the Medical Imaging Group of McKesson Information Solutions.