What is a PACS Workstation?
The radiological workstation is the most important part of the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS), since staff radiologists work with it almost all day long.
The picture archiving and communication system is 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. Most PACS handle images from various medical imaging instruments, including: ultrasound, magnetic resonance, positron emission tomography, computed tomography, endoscopy, mammograms, digital radiography, computed radiography, ophthalmology, etc. Additional types of image formats are always being added. Clinical areas beyond radiology: cardiology, oncology, gastroenterology and even the laboratory are creating medical images that can be incorporated into PACS.
What is a PACS Used For?
The main uses of PACS are:
- Hard copy replacement: PACS replaces hard-copy based means of managing medical images, such as film archives. With the decreasing price of digital storage, PACS provide a growing cost and space advantage over film archives in addition to the instant access to prior images at the same institution. Digital copies are referred to as soft-copy.
- Remote access: PACs expands on the possibilities of conventional systems by providing capabilities of off-site viewing and reporting (distance education, telediagnosis). It enables practitioners in different physical locations to access the same information simultaneously for teleradiology.
- Electronic image integration platform: PACS provides the electronic platform for radiology images interfacing with other medical automation systems such as: Hospital Information System (HIS), Electronic Medical Record, Practice Management Software and Radiology Information System (RIS).
- Radiology Workflow Management : PACS is used by radiology personnel to manage the workflow of patient exams.
The term “medical image workstation” describes a computer system that allows a user to search, retrieve, display and manipulate images that have been created from the various imaging modalities, such as a digital x-ray unit (computed radiography or direct digital radiography), computed tomography scanner, magnetic resonance imaging scanner, ultrasound or any of the other digital imaging technologies found in the modern imaging department. The images created by these modalities are stored on the PACS and may then be retrieved and viewed using 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.
What Types of PACS Workstations are there?
The PACS workstations can be divided into two categories according to their designations: radiology reporting workstations and review workstations. 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, and those developed for the manipulation and measurement of the images held within the PACS system. The reporting process is driven by a reporting worklist which displays a list of studies that are waiting for a report.
The PACS review workstation is the most 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.
What display types are used on a PACS?
The display is the focal point of the workstation for the user. Display monitor on the market use thin film transistor (TFT) liquid crystal display (LCD) technology. The LCD is constructed from a matrix of pixels, which are each addressed individually using thin film transistor technology. This technology has the advantage of the display monitors taking up less desk space, as well as consuming les power than the cathode ray tube models used previously.
Two principal display types may be used on PACs reporting workstations.
- Consumer displays – standard color displays used with personal computers and are often used with a workstation to display the RIS information and color images.
- Monochrome high resolution medical displays – generally used to view the grayscale medical images.
Standard graphics display card may be used for the consumer display, but to display 10 and 12 bit images on the monochrome medical displays, special display cards are required. These include a three head display card, which has controllers for 10 or 12 bit high resolution monochrome displays and one for a color consumer display.