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PACS (PICTURE ARCHIVING COMMUNICATION SYSTEM)
Picture Archiving Communication System (PACS) is a loose term
to describe a set of systems that facilitate the archiving, processing and
viewing of digital radiological images and their related information.
The images are acquired, archived and retrieved over a network
for diagnosis and review by physicians. These images can be interpreted and
viewed at workstations, which can also double as archive stations for image
The introduction of client/server computing, improved digital
imaging and computer network technologies, along with the advancement of the
DICOM and HL7 standards have put PACS along side radiology information systems
(RIS) as an ideal solution for managing radiological images. Some of these
- Computed Tomography
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
PACS first emerged in the 1980s, although initially trumpeted
as a solution to lost films, healthcare organisations, especially the larger
ones, have found that digital images can easily be lost as well.
One of the main benefits that PACS provides is the ability to
provide a timely delivered and efficient access to images, interpretations and
related data throughout the organisation. This helps to ease consultations
between physicians who can now simultaneously access the same images over
networks, leading to a better diagnosis process.
It is also beneficial to physicians in emergency situations,
as they need not wait for long periods in order to view a patient’s
radiological images as these are instantly available on the network when ready.
Another feature of PACS is the ability to digitally enhance
the images, providing more detailed and sharper images. This improves
diagnostic capabilities at radiological examinations.
Since the 1990s, organisations have taken the steps to fully
integrate PACS with RIS, when the basic features and adapt needed to mange the
acquisition, processing and storage of images, becomes the responsibility of
The high costs of PACS has led to vendors offering mini-PACS,
which is a cheap alternative for organisations that cannot afford the cost of a
full PACS system or those seeking to implement seeing to implement some form of
a digital image management system but would rather start off with something
While PACS are considered to be at a minimum hospital wide, mini-PACS usually
tend to be departmental-based (radiology, emergency room, or orthopedics).
Mini-PACS are easy to maintain and cheap to repair, and they can gradually be
upgraded to a fully functioning hospital wide PACS.
Advantages of PACS
- Rapid access to critical
information to decrease exam-to-diagnosis time. This is especially useful in
emergency and operating rooms.
- Elimination of film, handling
and storage costs
- Images can be easily shared
between reading radiologists, other physicians and medical
- Images can be archived at
secure locations using database servers manages the transfer, retrieval and
storage of images and relevant information; the archive provides permanent
- Radiologists can access
soft-copy images instantly after acquisition to expedite diagnosis and
reporting at the almost any available
- Web servers can be used to most
cost-effectively share images with other departments, even referring physicians
across town. They can access the images using the Internet or the local
or paper printouts can be made when needed for traditional archiving or the
provision of images to other departments.