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Medical Imaging Workstation

26 December, 2010 | imaging equipment

medical imaging workstation

The term “medical imaging workstation” describes a computer system that allows a user to search, retrieve, display and manipulate images that have been created from various imaging modalities, such as: digital x-ray computed radiography, direct digital radiography, computed tomography (CT) scanner, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, ultrasound or any of the other digital imaging modalities found in recent imaging departments.

The images created by these modalities are stored in the picture archiving and communication system, PACS, and then may be retrieved and viewed using medical imaging workstations. These workstations are generally referred to as PACS workstations, which should not be confused with more general modality workstations, designed to work only with the images generated from specific modalities (such as MRI or CT).

The PACS system is a computer network system designed to store, retrieve and transfer digital medical images. A PACS integrates image data from system-to-system, allowing for transfers within and between healthcare settings. This facilitates the availability of both images and image-related data at the point of care, as and when required.

Medical Imaging Workstations are used for a number of different purposes. The reporting workstation is a PACS workstation, specifically designed to generate and display primary reports on the images selected for viewing. In order for this to work effectively, users must be confident that the image is displayed as accurately as possible. High-resolution, monochrome display monitors are used to ensure a high-quality presentation of the images, and a consumer color display monitor is also available for use with the radiology information system (RIS), so that color images can be viewed effectively.

The reporting workstation is not only required to view images, but also to interface with other sources of data, such as the RIS, voice recognition applications , and those developed for the manipulation and measurement of the images held within the PACS system. The PACS review workstation is a frequently used form of medical imaging workstation utilized within hospital wards and clinics. This workstation is not intended for primary reporting of images. It is designed to facilitate the secondary viewing of digital images, alongside any radiology reports generated through the reporting workstation. It therefore acts as an interface to the archived files, to bring the images quickly and effectively onto a display monitor for review.

The radiology reporting workstation can be specialized and configured as a mammography workstation. The ability to detect fine details in mammography images is vital to their effective use in diagnosis and treatment of a number of conditions. The mammography workstation must be capable of resolving micro-calcification, the appearance of which can be a clinical indicator of pre-cancerous changes in the breast.

High-resolution monochrome display monitors are necessary to view the details contained within these images.

Cardiology workstations also differ from general radiology workstations. With standard radiology workstations, the workflow for viewing and reporting studies is primarily driven by an imaging request. In contrast, the cardiology workstation contains all cardiology imaging details about each patient, which may be stored across a number of different storage systems, such as cardiology PACS or taken directly from a cardiology device.

The range of images and other data typically stored within the cardiology department of most hospitals is wider than what is relevant to a radiology department. Data recorded during a cardiac catheterization procedure might also be available for viewing on PACS cardiology workstation.

Various mechanisms are used in transferring the images from the PACS archive to the viewing workstation. The workstation application is run on individual personal computers (PCs). The query or retrieve message is sent to the PACS image server. The correct study is located from the archive and returned to the requesting workstation. The full DICOM image can then be viewed by the user on the workstation, where the range of tools to view the image is also installed. The database query function and image files themselves generally contain large amounts of data, usually requiring each workstation to be of higher specification than standard desktop PCs.

While the main function of the reporting workstation is to view and manipulate the images, other information, such as the patient’s imaging history, previous images reports and electronic request form can also be accessed. This type of information is often also stored on the radiology information system (RIS). It is therefore important that the RIS and the PACS reporting workstations are synchronized, so that the information relating to the patient and any relevant studies are up-to-date and correct.