Portable music device plays radiology tune

January 19, 2005

A new use for the iPod MP3 player is offering a solution to the chronic shortage of computer storage many radiologists experience in the digital era.

A new use for the iPod MP3 player is offering a solution to the chronic shortage of computer storage many radiologists experience in the digital era.

Some radiologists have begun using iPod devices to store digital diagnostic images alongside songs from the Dixie Chicks, using the music tool as a giant memory stick. iPods with up to 40 GB sell for about $399.

"Technology coming from the consumer market is changing the way we do things in the radiology department," said Dr. Osman Ratib, vice chair of radiologic services at the University of California, Los Angeles.

These new technologies can facilitate the communication and transport of images beyond the usual limits and restrictions of a traditional PACS, Ratib said.

Ratib and Dr. Antoine Rosset, a radiologist in Geneva, Switzerland, recently developed OsiriX, Macintosh-based software for display and manipulation of complex medical image data.

OsiriX combines three new Apple technologies:

  • iPod was adapted to quickly and easily move large numbers of DICOM images.

  • iChat, a videoconference and instant messanging system that is compatible with AOL instant messaging, is used to transmit DICOM images in real-time to remote computers for teleradiology purposes.

  • iDisk, a file-sharing service based on WebDAV technology, is used to send and share DICOM files securely between remote computers.

"I use my software to download images from the PACS or from any imaging source," Ratib said. "OsiriX follows the most universal way of accessing any image, and it covers virtually every DICOM format possible. It's very flexible."

Once the images are on the iPod, they can be carried from one machine to another as long as the computer is a Macintosh.

"You can see the images and display them as you would do with any other file that's on your hard disk," he said.

iPod storage may prove attractive to clinicians and referring physicians. Most have only limited access to digital images, usually through slow-access Web-based systems with limited image manipulation capabilities, Ratib said.

By using general consumer products, radiologists can benefit not only from low cost, but also from widely available technical support.

"The adoption of these innovative technologies is likely to change the architecture of traditional PACS, which is often limited and centralized around a unique radiology department," Ratib said. "They clearly provide more flexible and efficient means of image communication."

OsiriX software is available free under open source licensing at OsiriX