Today all current digital image acquisition devices produce DICOM images and communicate through DICOM networks. A few years ago that was not the case and even though imaging equipment produced digital images; the same were not all DICOM.
Because of a lack of a standard, each manufacturer worked independently and in competition with the others, consequently, each had a proprietary approach to connecting their equipment.
Why do we need DICOM?
An image by itself is useless for diagnostic purposes, and existing standards (JPEG, TIFF, BMP, etc.) do not provide information about the patient, image acquisition parameters, etc. DICOM adds information which is the key to manage, route and retrieve your images properly.
PACS systems cannot understand the content of images, so they rely on metadata to do their job.
The need for a standard for exchanging information between different imaging devices and imaging systems. For example, a DICOM Archive system can be shared by multiple modalities: CT, MR, US or any imaging devices manufactured by any vendor. If there was no DICOM, you would need separate Archive systems for each and every modality. DICOM will act as a universal standard between these devices and the archive system reducing cost in purchasing extra equipment.
Full support for numerous image-acquisition parameters, and different data types. Since DICOM saves the images, but it also records a multitude of other image-related parameters such as patient 3D position, physical sizes of the objects in the image, slice thickness, image exposure parameters, etc. This data enormously enriches the informational content of DICOM images, and facilitates processing and interpreting the image data in various ways – for instance, creating 3D images from the sequences of 2D CT slices.
Image quality. DICOM supports up to 16 bit (65536 shades of gray) for the display of monochrome images, thus capturing the minuscule details in medical imaging. This way DICOM takes advantage of the most current and advanced digital image representation techniques to provide the utmost diagnostic image quality.
Since DICOM is a universal standard, you need not buy custom software to view images produced by different manufacturers and also simplifies equipment connectivity.
Improve Workflow. By making the flow of information seamless and straightforward, we can improve the delivery of health care, and improve the health of our patients.
Present and Future
Today, DICOM is much far-reaching than just radiology. Working groups within the DICOM organization are very active in developing parts of the standard in cardiology, ophthalmology, pathology, dentistry, surgery, and veterinary radiology.