Filmless System Puts X-Ray Images On The Web

June 02, 1998

Instead of sliding X-ray films on light boxes, physicians at the University of Maryland Medical Center will now read X-rays and other radiological images on computer screens and the Internet, providing faster medical diagnoses and reducing costs.

A new imaging system eliminates film and allows images to be viewed on computer screens in the hospital or in the offices of referring physicians with Internet access. The system includes not only X-rays but all imaging studies including ultrasound, magnetic resonance images, computed tomography, angiograms and nuclear medicine scans.

"This is another example of cutting edge technology that provides innovative approaches to diagnosis and treatment," says Philip A. Templeton, M.D., chair of diagnostic radiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Known as the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS), the system allows rapid access to diagnostic images and accelerates the speed of medical consultations and diagnoses. As soon as an X-ray or other image is taken, it is available on the system. Radiologists can change the view, zoom in or enhance the image.

"We will be able to read scans within minutes and can help colleagues in other parts of the building or in outside offices make medical decisions. For patients, it reduces the time they must wait for medical results," adds Dr. Templeton. "It will also significantly lower medical costs by eliminating duplication of studies and reducing the length of hospital stays for some patients."

A radiologist on one floor, for example, and a surgeon in the operating room can simultaneously view the same image. In fact, with no film to store or lose, there is no limit to the number of specialists who can view the same image at the same time.

The medical center began installing the filmless radiology system in April and has now completed the first phase. When fully operational, about a year from now, it will transmit images to hundreds of computer work stations throughout the hospital and link radiology with the emergency department, intensive care units, doctor's offices in the hospital, the Shock Trauma Center, the Greenebaum Cancer Center and to any referring physician with a personal computer and a secure access code.

Instead of printing an image to film, computed radiography reads X-ray plates and composes a matrix image. The computer transmits digital image information and creates a high-resolution image.

At the click of a mouse, the images appear and can be manipulated on a computer screen. Images are stored on optical disks allowing for rapid retrieval of not only the most recently taken image, but past images for comparison. Past films can also be digitized so that relevant historical exams will be archived.

AGFA, a technical imaging company and a division of Bayer in Ridgefield Park, N.J., has installed 130 cable lines across five buildings at the medical center to link the network, called IMPAX. AGFA's WEB 1000 Java server will provide Internet access.

"The AGFA networks will help us deliver timely medical information to increase the efficiency and productivity of our institution," Dr. Templeton says.

The move to digital images represents the University of Maryland Medical Center's continuing commitment to higher definition and diagnostic efficiency in imaging technology. The medical center has also installed a filmless ultrasound system that uses a chain of computer workstations where doctors view results. The system links the medical center with an outpatient building in Baltimore as well as at Mercy Medical Center, where University radiologists provide diagnostic radiology services. The new system, featuring the Sequoia 512 f and AEGIS mini-PACS , is manufactured by Acuson, a company based in Mountain View, California.

The University of Maryland Medical Center will showcase these new imaging systems when its Radiology Department hosts the 15th annual Society for Computer Applications in Radiology (SCAR) Symposium from June 4 -7 at the Baltimore Convention Center. The meeting will attract radiology and technology experts, administrators, finance and information officers from around the United States.

University of Maryland Medical Center

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