Teaching file system cuts through cumbersome process

May 26, 2004

Digital technology has not yet been fully exploited in the application of teaching files. A solution from Canada may crack open the possibilities."Most PACS vendors supply an inadequate solution to the teaching file requirement," said Dr. Blair

Digital technology has not yet been fully exploited in the application of teaching files. A solution from Canada may crack open the possibilities.

"Most PACS vendors supply an inadequate solution to the teaching file requirement," said Dr. Blair Henderson, a radiologist at the Health Sciences Centre of the University of Manitoba.

Henderson offered his own teaching file solution using free software from the Internet in a recent Journal of Digital Imaging article (J Digit Imaging. 2004;17(2):87-91).

The paper is not revolutionary. It brings together several freeware software packages and melds them into a single application, enabling radiology departments to create and use electronic teaching files in a more efficient manner.

"This system is an improvement," Henderson said. "An ideal solution would be to have the teaching file functionality added into the PACS software itself."

Conventional teaching file creation involves making physical copies of the films. This time-consuming and costly process requires some form of written or electronic database to maintain records of specific cases and their location.

Using Henderson's system, interruption to workflow is minimal when creating teaching file cases, he said.

"The key functionality is the ability to automatically parse information from the DICOM header and later utilize this information to search for cases," he said.

As proposed, Henderson's system runs on PCs operating Linux, Apache, and MySQL -- all free, open source packages.

His modifications and installation instructions are available here.

Implementation does require understanding the Linux operating system, and knowledge of Apache helps when setting up the Web server. No knowledge of the C programming language is required to compile and run the software.

"The limitation as presently configured is that the software has been written to parse out special user entered codes from the Kodak Cemax-Icon and EFilm workstations, the stations we currently use," Henderson said.

These codes are in addition to the standard demographic data from the DICOM header.

"The beauty of the system is that a user can rewrite a small portion of the code to allow it to parse out data from other vendor workstations," he said.

No modification to PACS workstation software is required.

Henderson said future work will include the development of a Java applet to allow image manipulation with real-time windowing and leveling.