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What Is Digital Medical Imaging?

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  • Written By: R. Bargar
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Medical imagery is used for diagnostics, during medical procedures, for pathological studies and for the study of anatomy and physiology. In the past, medical images were preserved on film. Now, digital medical imaging uses electronic processing to store and view images. The commonly used image formats are compatible with web browsers, making digital medical images accessible for viewing worldwide by physicians and researchers. During diagnostic testing and surgical procedures, digital images can be viewed on monitors.

Diagnostic radiology uses x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound and nuclear imaging technologies to produce images that help physicians detect health problems. Radiology frequently uses digital medical imaging, which is produced electronically rather than on film. This is sometimes done using an analog to digital converter, or the process may be entirely digital. The image is then available for viewing via a computer and monitor. Images are stored using electronic media such as digital magnetic tape or other media.

Another form of digital medical imaging is used in breast thermography diagnostic testing. This technology uses digital infrared imaging, a method of detecting temperatures of breast tissue. Pre-cancerous and cancerous tissue is more metabolically active than normal tissue, resulting in higher temperatures. Digital medical imaging is also used in mammography, another method of detecting breast cancer. Advances in this technology include three dimensional tomosynthesis mammography, which uses a series of x-rays to produce sharp images.

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Just as with other digital images, the results of digital medical imaging can be displayed on a monitor, printed out or uploaded to the Internet. The digital images are stored in many different formats. Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) images are compressed images that are stored in the JPEG File Interchange Format (JFIF). Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) is useful for animations, while Portable Network Graphics (PNG) are readily supported by most web browsers. Raw Image Formats (RAW), on the other hand, must be developed before a usable image is produced.

The vast amount of digital imaging data being stored presents challenges to the modern medical industry. Secure and convenient methods for storing the data, retrieving the digital medical imaging files, and sharing files with other physicians or researchers are necessary. As the number of images stored in medical Picture Archive and Communication Systems (PACS) increases, the need for guidelines that assure reliable and secure storage and access also increases. Online digital medical imaging repositories facilitate retrieval of images by doctors and researchers around the world. The issues of patient privacy and the security of personal information are important considerations when medical data is stored and retrieved.

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