An introduction to DICOM - Veterinary Medicine
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An introduction to DICOM
To send digital images from one workstation to another, they must speak the same language—and that language should be DICOM.



As discussed earlier, DICOM is well-accepted in human medicine and has been adopted by manufacturers of imaging devices. However, there are many facets (or layers) involved in exchanging DICOM files among different devices. Because of the multitude of functions and transfer syntaxes involved, not all DICOM devices can communicate with each other.1

To determine whether exchanges can be performed between different devices, manufacturers of human imaging devices (as well as some veterinary vendors) voluntarily create DICOM conformance statements to unambiguously define what the devices can exchange and in what specific manner.2 These statements permit users to determine in advance whether devices can communicate with each other.

Not all digital imaging devices currently being sold in veterinary medicine are DICOM-compatible. DICOM capability is sometimes considered an additional option with an associated fee.


Although digital imaging makes it possible for images to be exchanged and displayed at multiple locations, the grayscale depiction of these images can differ on various workstations. To promote identical grayscale image display on different monitors and consistent hard-copy images from various printers, the DICOM committee developed a lookup table to display digitally assigned pixel values. To use the DICOM grayscale standard display function (GSDF), images must be viewed (or printed) on devices that have this lookup curve or on devices that have been calibrated to the GSDF curve.6


DICOM is the accepted standard in human medicine for exchanging medical images and is supported by the ACVR as the digital imaging standard in veterinary medicine. DICOM is also useful in interfacing image data with medical information systems (e.g. practice management software), although, to date, this interface is of limited availability in veterinary medicine. DICOM is a proven technology that is continuing to develop and is rapidly being adopted by medical disciplines outside diagnostic imaging. As a result, the list of objects supported by DICOM is expanding to include nonimaging data such as electrocardiograms, hemodynamic and audio waveforms, and procedure logs.5

Jonathan T. Shiroma, DVM, MS, DACVR
MedVet Medical Center for Pets
300 E. Wilson Bridge Road
Worthington, OH 43085


1. Bidgood WD Jr, Horii SC. Introduction to the ACR-NEMA DICOM standard. Radiographics 1992;12:345-355.

2. Horii SC. Primer on computers and information technology. Part four: a nontechnical introduction to DICOM. Radiographics 1997;17:1297-1309.

3. Clunie DA. DICOM, PACS, and veterinary radiology, in Proceedings. Am Coll Vet Radiol Annu Sci Mtg 2005.

4. National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM) standard. Rosslyn, VA: NEMA, 2006 PS 3.1, PS 3.2, PS 3.14.

5. Clunie DA. DICOM implementations for digital radiography. In: Samei E, Flynn MJ, eds. Advances in digital radiography: RSNA categorical course in diagnostic radiology physics. Oak Brook, Ill: RSNA, 2003;163–172.

6. Krupinski EA, Roehrig H. The influence of a perceptually linearized display on observer performance and visual search. Acad Radiol 2000;7:8-13.


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