DICOM Images and PACS Software - Reading Multiple Source Images for One Common Cure

DICOM images are noted with a file extension of .dcm or .DCM. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), positron emission technology (PET) and PET-CT (5-D images) are all stored with the same .dcm file extension in PACS. This file extension is very important to medical professionals because every DICOM file in formatted to include patient information and scan information.

Taking a Closer Look at DICOM and .DCM Files

In the past, before DICOM was created, images were saved as two separate files after medical imaging. The first file was the image file (typically an .img extension). The second file was the header (.hdr extension) which noted information about the patient, type of scan, etc. The .img and .hdr files were part of the Analyze system. Analyze files were huge and could not be compressed for faster storage and retrieval. DICOM fuses the two files into one allowing for all patient and scan information to appear on the image. This is also a fantastic security feature that prevents an image and header file from being separated in a computer system.

The DICOM PACS system is not just compliant with .dcm and .DCM files. Some medical imaging modalities do not render images that can be converted to these extensions, such as confocal microscopy. In this case, the rendered LSM and BioRAD-PIC formats are compatible within the DICOM PACS system and are read as DICOM images.

Why is DICOM and PACS so Important?

Time is of the essence when it comes to medical imagery. Today, a radiologist can take a complete PET scan of a patient and have the files ready in a fraction of the time for the doctor, linked to the PACS system on an EMR ready device with a DICOM viewer, to view the scan, make a diagnosis and prescribe a treatment. Furthermore, patient information is safe and secure behind encryption and security walls established by HIPAA guidelines.