For decades, radiology has existed in a black and white world. It isn’t necessary to look any farther than the ubiquitous radiograph that defines radiology to understand why radiologists have existed in a monochromatic world. But that is changing thanks to the more recent transition to digital imaging in radiology and the introduction of monochromatic or grayscale medical display systems with the resolution necessary to view fine anatomic details and make accurate diagnosis. For the most part, the lack of color has served the specialty fairly well.
But as you look around, you’re noticing radiology is evolving — a lot. Plain film radiography is now just one of many digital-based medical imaging modalities. Grayscale no longer fits the bill for all modalities. In fact, modalities and techniques that depend on color such as 3D reconstruction, Doppler ultrasound, CAD and PET-CT fusion have become essential to the business of radiology. The department that cannot efficiently and effectively deploy these new technologies will struggle to operate and compete. The advent of fusion imaging and increasing use of color overlays to highlight key information make color displays appealing and even essential. Low-resolution color systems simply failed to fit the bill — until now. More recently, color medical display technology has improved tremendously; vendors have overcome the brightness and luminance drawbacks that prevented the use of color monitors in the early days.
The upshot? Radiology is on the verge of a new paradigm; color displays are ready for prime time. In fact, color monitors like Barco’s Coronis Color Diagnostic Luminance displays offer numerous benefits over their monochromatic peers. Color brings advantages on a number of fronts: clinical, financial, technical and physical.
“I highly recommend color monitors for everyone,” opines Eliot Siegel, MD, chief of imaging service with Veterans Affairs (VA) Maryland Health Care System in Baltimore. “In the next five years, we will see an increasing tendency to incorporate medical grade color displays systems in radiology,” continues Siegel.
The reasons for Siegel’s prediction are simple. Radiologists need color from the clinical and workflow perspectives; however, it makes little sense to adopt a technology before its time. But the time for color has arrived. Barco has refined and perfected color display technology, making it possible and practical for healthcare to embrace color displays systems for diagnostic interpretation in radiology and across the enterprise to other departments.
Color applications at a glance
Ghent University Hospital in Ghent, Belgium, operates a fairly typical radiology department. The radiology reading room is configured with a triple monitor set-up, two grayscale monitors for viewing monochrome images and a single, low-resolution color display that conveys administrative information patient data. Radiologists rely on the two high-resolution, monochromatic medical display systems for the bulk of diagnostic work. “The high resolution of the monochromatic display is required, so radiologists don’t miss small lesions,” explains Staff Radiologist Peter Smeets, MD.
The arrangement is nearly universal in the radiology world. “The current model uses two monochromatic, 3 megapixel (MP) monitors for PACS display and diagnosis and a third color monitor for the worklist,” says Siegel. The reason for the model is simple. “Until now, manufacturers did not offer high-resolution color monitors that could perform at the same level as black-and-white display systems,” notes Smeets.
But some medical imaging applications depend on color, says Smeets. “The advent of functional imaging in MR and PET-CT requires color,” he notes. PET-CT data associated with FDG is presented as a color overlay, which means that a radiologist can not interpret the studies on a conventional, high-resolution monochromatic monitor. Other color-dependent applications include Doppler ultrasound and nuclear medicine.
In the conventional department, the radiologist exits the PACS workstation and treks to yet another modality workstation such as the PET-CT workstation when he or she needs to interpret PET-CT images. “Moving to the acquisition station to review color images like 3D reconstructions is a significant drawback,” states Morly Ball, PACS administrator at Scripps Medical Center in San Diego. “This model has [negative] workflow and financial implications,” adds Siegel. In addition, the