What is DICOM?

DICOM stands for Digital Imaging and COmmunications in Medicine: it is an international standard related to the exchange, storage and communication of digital medical images and other related digital data.

The DICOM standard covers both the formats to be used for storage of digital medical images and related digital data, and the protocols to be adopted to implement several communication services which are useful in the medical imaging workflow.

DICOM was born back in year 1993 by initiative of the American College of Radiology (ACR) and of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA). It is often referred to as “DICOM 3.0”, as it is an evolution of the previous ACR-NEMA 2.0 standard.

The main purpose of the DICOM standard is to allow cross-vendor interoperability among devices and information systems dealing with digital medical images, as long as all the involved actors comply with the DICOM standard: thanks to DICOM, a CT equipment of vendor “A” shall be able to send an exam to a digital archive of vendor “B”, or a diagnostic workstation of vendor “C” shall be able to query and retrieve information from a server of vendor “D”, etc.

DICOM has become the de-facto standard in medical imaging: today, the vast majority of digital medical imaging systems of all major vendors (including acquisition devices, diagnostic workstations, archives, servers, medical printers, etc.) support and comply with portions of the DICOM standard, depending on the services they implement. Also, DICOM has been widely accepted and adopted by medical institutions, including public and private hospitals, diagnostic centers and analysis laboratories of different sizes.