Price is right for stopgap PACS

August 10, 2004

An imaging department that can't afford a full-blown PACS doesn't have to go without. Researchers at Reed College in Portland, OR, and the University of Washington developed a free self-contained miniature PACS for radiologists who want a simple method

An imaging department that can't afford a full-blown PACS doesn't have to go without. Researchers at Reed College in Portland, OR, and the University of Washington developed a free self-contained miniature PACS for radiologists who want a simple method to view images.

The system can be used to store and view images from any PC equipped with Internet Explorer, according to its developers. They describe it in the August issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.

"We created MyFreePACS, a program that uses a DICOM server to receive and store images and transmit them over the Web to the MyFreePACS Web client," said Dr. Edward Weinberger, a radiologist at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle.

The MyFreePACS Web client is a Web page that uses an ActiveX control for viewing and manipulating images. Any PC that can connect to the server can retrieve images. The system, built entirely with free components, is available at www.myfreepacs.com.

"For the cost of a basic desktop computer, one gets a full DICOM server and viewing system," said David de Regt, a computer programmer at Reed who designed the system.

The DICOM server can be used in a variety of ways. Children's Hospital uses the system to store all CT and MR studies obtained at the institution, allowing the hospital's clinicians easy access to prior studies from any hospital computer, Weinberger said. The JPEG export function makes it easy to select images for teaching files or publication needs.

"We anticipate that the images stored can act as a ready repository of prior studies for the day when we actually acquire a formal PACS," he said.

The system, while useful for teaching and clinical conferences such as the tumor board, has limitations. It has not been certified as a primary viewing mechanism, and radiologists are cautioned not to rely on MyFreePACS for primary clinical interpretations. Also, its use of the Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE) means storage needs can butt up against the database size limit.

"If more storage is needed, then the user can upgrade to SQL Server 2000 Standard," de Regt said. "Running MyFreePACS on a Linux server avoids this limitation, since MySQL has no limit on database size."

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