DICOM Standard


From a doctors point of view, the DICOM Format describes the content of DICOM image files. The files are usually stored on a PACs server in the clinic data center. Each CT or MR scan produces a so called series with a unique series id, which consists of the cross sections of the scan plus patient meta data.

Recent enhancement of the DICOM standard introduced the multi-frame format, which stores an entire series in a single file. A single multi-frame DICOM file can become very large, so the efficient handling of those files is algorithmically more complicated than a traditional series of multiple image files.

From a programmers view point, a single DICOM file of a series encapsulates the image raw data and patient meta data that is stored as key-value pairs in the DICOM image file. The committee standardizes the name and meaning of the key-value pairs.

From a manufacturers view point, the DICOM format is a standardized data structure, that the proprietary company software needs to be compliant with. Each manufacturer like Siemens, GE and Phillips have introduced extensions of the file format to account for certain special capabilities of their scanners and for the particular clinical work flows offered by the manufacturer (structured reporting).

For that purpose the DICOM format needs to ensure a minimum set of features supported by all software while being flexible enough to add extensions which may only be understood by a particular implementation of a particular manufacturer.