News Column

Patent Issued for Storing and Retrieving Large Images via DICOM

August 1, 2014

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Health & Medicine Week -- From Alexandria, Virginia, NewsRx journalists report that a patent by the inventor Eichhorn, Ole (Westlake Village, CA), filed on December 27, 2011, was published online on July 15, 2014 (see also Leica Biosystems Imaging, Inc.).

The patent's assignee for patent number 8781261 is Leica Biosystems Imaging, Inc. (Vista, CA).

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention is generally related to digital pathology.

"The Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine ('DICOM') standard is maintained by the National Electronic Manufacturer's Association ('NEMA'), and is supported by large image management systems called Picture Archive and Communication Systems ('PACS'). PACS systems are used in hospitals and labs to store, archive, retrieve, search, and manage images used for clinical and research purposes in medicine, most typically for Radiology images such as radiography (e.g., X-Rays), computed tomography ('CT') scans, positron emission tomography ('PET'), and magnetic resonance imaging ('MRI'), but also for other modalities such as Ultrasonography, Cardiology, Endoscopy, and Mammography. A large number of clinical and laboratory instruments support DICOM-standard messaging as a means to communicate image information and store it in PACS systems.

"The field of pathology is undergoing a transformation in which digital imaging is becoming increasingly important. This transformation is fueled by the commercial availability of instruments for digitizing microscope slides, such as the Aperio ScanScope.RTM. described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,711,283 which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. The whole-slide images ('WSI' or 'digital slides') made by digitizing microscope slides at diagnostic resolution are very large. Frequently multiple images are created at varying resolutions to facilitate rapid panning and zooming for pathologists. The set of images comprising a single scanned digital slide are typically stored as a single Tagged Image File Format ('TIFF') file. (TIFF is an open-source standard.) In addition to the size of digital slides, the access characteristics of these images differ from other images presently stored in PACS systems. Pathologists need the ability to rapidly pan and zoom when viewing images.

"Unfortunately, there are several limitations of the DICOM standard which impact storage of digital slides. These limitations include DICOM's use of signed 16-bit integers to store the pixel dimensions of images, therefore the maximum image dimensions which can be stored are 32K.times.32K pixels. This is considerably smaller than a typical digital slide image, and two orders of magnitude smaller than an extremely large digital slide image. Additionally, DICOM uses signed 32-bit integers to store the object size of images, therefore the maximum compressed size of an image is 2 GB. In actual practice many PACS systems are not capable of handling individual images this large; because these PACS systems frequently decompress image data in memory, thereby limiting the maximum uncompressed size of images to 2 GB, they restrict the limit on compressed image size to something considerably smaller. Additionally, while DICOM provides the capability of accessing individual images in a series, as well as individual images in an entire series or entire study, it does not provide the capability of accessing subregions of an individual image. As noted above, the capability to access subregions is important to provide rapid panning and zooming.

"Furthermore, the DICOM standard does not make provision for large two-dimensional images such as the digital slides being created for pathology, nor does it incorporate a way to handle images that are logically divided into sub-regions, nor does it incorporate a way to handle multiple images at varying resolutions. The process for evolving the DICOM standard is well-defined but slow moving, and even after the standard is enhanced to support digital slides it will be years before PACS and instrument vendors implement the enhanced standard. In the meantime, a means of using the currently implemented DICOM standard for storing digital slides is needed. Therefore, what is needed is a system and method that facilitates use of the currently implemented DICOM standard for storing and viewing digital slides."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent, NewsRx correspondents also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent: "Accordingly, to provide a solution for storing and retrieving large images via DICOM and to facilitate integration of digital pathology into hospitals and laboratories, described herein are systems and methods that acquire digital slides and store these images into commercially available PACS systems using DICOM-standard messaging. Once a digital slide is stored in the PACS system, the PACS capabilities for storing, archiving, retrieving, searching, and managing images are leveraged for these new types of images. Additionally, because any particular case, or experiment may comprise images from multiple modalities, including radiology and pathology, all the images for a case or experiment could be managed together in a PACS system. Other features and advantages of the present invention will become more readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art after reviewing the following detailed description and accompanying drawings."

For additional information on this patent, see: Eichhorn, Ole. Storing and Retrieving Large Images via DICOM. U.S. Patent Number 8781261, filed December 27, 2011, and published online on July 15, 2014. Patent URL:

Keywords for this news article include: Digital Imaging, Hospital, Leica Biosystems Imaging, Leica Biosystems Imaging Inc.

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Source: Health & Medicine Week

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