Work begins on image quality standardization

June 4, 2005

A multisociety effort is under way to define what constitutes image quality from a clinical perspective.

A multisociety effort is under way to define what constitutes image quality from a clinical perspective.

The American College of Radiology, the Society for Computer Applications in Radiology, the RSNA, and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine are collaborating to determine achievable standards in image quality, according to SCAR chair Dr. J. Anthony Seibert.

The groups will work with manufacturers, regulators, and users to form a panel of experts to discuss the topic. They plan to publish a white paper and request feedback on it within the next three to five months, he said.

The goal is to create consistent high-quality digital image presentations. Problems persist in this area despite efforts such as the DICOM gray-scale standard display function.

Inconsistent image presentation can particularly affect emerging areas such as digital mammography, said Dr. Margarita Zuley, a breast imager at the Elizabeth Wende Breast Clinic in Rochester, NY.

Zuley detailed the ways in which digital mammography has introduced variability into the image quality arena.

"With screen-film mammography, I know exactly what I can and what I can't do," Zuley said.

Digital mammography, however, involves a host of new variables, including processing algorithms, soft-copy workstations, and display monitors that can affect image quality in different ways.

"We still don't know how all of these variables interact in terms of image quality," she said.

Whereas a screen-film mammogram that is produced in one facility can be transferred easily and with full image integrity to another, digital mammograms can be site- and vendor-specific. They may not be transferable to another facility with a different vendor's soft-copy workstation and PACS.

"The effect that these technical parameters and processes have on the final image quality is not completely known from a clinical perspective," Zuley said. "We really need further refinement and standards for many aspects of the imaging chain."

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