SCAR meeting shows evolution of technology

June 1, 1999

SCAR meeting shows evolution of technologyNew compression offering draws attentionThe Symposium for Computer Applications in Radiology continues to rise in prominence as a key meeting for those interested in PACS technology developments.

SCAR meeting shows evolution of technology

New compression offering draws attention

The Symposium for Computer Applications in Radiology continues to rise in prominence as a key meeting for those interested in PACS technology developments. In addition to many strong scientific sessions, attendees at this year's show in Houston found a larger exhibit area in which to browse for potential purchases. Fifty-one vendors showcased their wares at this year's meeting, a 19% increase over 1998. This represents an impressive growth rate in the face of substantial industry consolidation.

But big news on the exhibit floor was sparse, with Acuson's launch of its new KinetDx ultrasound image management line the only major product introduction at the show (PNN 5/99). Evolutionary product developments were in evidence, however.

Siemens Medical Systems featured the next release of its MagicWeb Web-based offering for the distribution of image and reports to referring physicians. Available in the third quarter, the new release will allow the distribution and dynamic viewing of cardiac images, according to the Iselin, NJ-based company. It will support encryption, whiteboarding, and lossy JPEG and lossless wavelet compression schemes, according to the firm.

Speech recognition firm Talk Technology is moving forward with version 2.0 of its TalkStation offering. The new release features an open development environment, allowing any RIS or PACS vendor to build TalkStation into its own software application, said Michael Mardini, Talk Technology president. In addition, TalkStation 2.0 will support speech recognition engines other than that of current partner IBM (PNN 1/99). TalkStation 2.0 will go into beta testing in July, with expected availability on Aug. 1, he said.

Agfa will integrate Talk Technology's speech recognition software into its Impax 3.5 and 4.0 and software releases. Impax R4 is being shipped to the company's DIN-PACS customers now, and general release is expected around September. Ridgefield Park, NJ-based Agfa also held the inaugural meeting of Agfa PACS Users Group (APUG), its new Impax users group.

Workstation developer Aurora Technologies of Lake Forest, IL, has revamped its product line, introducing a new Windows NT-based workstation that replaces the company's Sunrise offering.

ImageLabs has begun shipping version 2.8.1 of its Shared Vision enterprise-wide image viewing software, which adds support for Windows NT and Windows 95/98 operating systems. Shared Vision can operate as a stand-alone viewer or integrate into a DICOM network, according to the Bedford, MA-based firm.

DeJarnette Research Systems has signed on a beta site for its Radiance PACS offering (PNN 1/99). Akron General Hospital in Akron, OH, will install the system in mid-June to early July, according to the Towson, MD-based vendor. General availability for Radiance is expected around the time of the RSNA meeting in November.

American Medical Sales highlighted Catella, a workstation package that features the ability for voice control of the system. The Hawthorne, CA-based medical equipment supplier debuted Catella at the 1998 RSNA meeting.

Systems integrator and Applicare Medical Imaging distributor Meta Solutions showed IBM's MedSpeak speech recognition offering integrated into Applicare's RadWorks workstation and as a stand-alone offering.

MedPACS Displays has broadened its product line beyond workstation software to support image archiving. The Hartland, WI-based company has released WinArchive, a Windows NT-based image management and storage system designed for miniPACS and teleradiology applications. Voice clips could be stored along with the image, and users have the option of accessing archived images through a Web browser. Storage is performed using redundant arrays of inexpensive disks (RAID), and a DLT archive could be added as an option, according to the firm.

New compression offering
One of the most interesting SCAR product developments took place off the exhibit floor. In a scientific session, medical imaging newcomer LizardTech debuted an image compression software package designed to improve the speed with which images can be stored, retrieved, and viewed either by clinicians or by radiologists reviewing cases remotely. Called Multi-resolution Seamless Image database (MrSID), it encodes medical images into a wavelet-compressed portable image format prior to archival, which allows users to receive and manipulate the images at varying levels of compression based on their image viewing needs, said Michael Hovanes, medical business unit manager. MrSID works in conjunction with a LizardTech Web server that serves as the image distribution mechanism and can be attached to an existing PACS network.

Similar to the dynamic transfer syntax (DTS) technology developed by a University of Pittsburgh research team (PNN 1/99), MrSID allows users to initially receive a low-resolution version of the image. If clinicians or radiologists want to view part or all of the image at a higher resolution, they can zoom in on a region of interest. In a key difference with DTS, however, MrSID's database allows for additional image pixels to be transmitted on demand, Hovanes said.

Since it operates as a Java or Active-X application, MrSID can work with any operating system used by PACS vendors, he said. Using technology commercialized by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Seattle, WA-based LizardTech initially developed MrSID for use in managing and delivering large images for the geospatial and publishing markets.

The technology is being tested and refined for medical imaging applications by the University of California, San Francisco. MrSID is available on a limited basis for evaluation by OEMs, and the company plans to file for FDA 510(k) clearance during the summer. LizardTech hopes the product will be generally available by this year's RSNA meeting. The company plans to sell MrSID through OEMs and directly to end users.

MrSID includes proprietary encryption techniques that allow control over access to images, Hovanes said. In addition to image distribution and teleradiology applications, the company believes MrSID will be of particular use in incorporating medical images into electronic patient records. All of a patient's medical images, including histology and path-ology slides, could be stored and compressed as a single object on a central data repository.

"The images could then be grouped for a montage display on the EPR viewer, and users would have the ability to open and manipulate any single image," he said.