PACS – Basic Structure, Importance, and Limitations

PACS or picture archiving and communication system is a medical imaging technology that is fundamentally used in healthcare organizations to securely store and digitally transmit electronic images and clinically suitable reports.

It eliminates the use of physical films generated from different imaging devices by going fully digitized. It offers ease and convenience with reasonable storage solutions and eliminates transport transmission of traditional films.

  1. input from digital or digitized analog devices, which may be any radiological modality e.g. x-ray, CT, MRI or ultrasound. It includes whole-body solutions for diagnostic imaging needs.
  2. image acquisition device
  3. image cloud storage device or server for short or long term information storage
  4. transmits local or web-based network
  5. display and imaging workstations plus user interface
  6. convert hard-copy images on need basis
  7. integration with radiology information system (RIS) and hospital information system (HIS)
Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash

A patient may undergo a battery of radiological investigations at separate locations, which need to be accessed by multiple radiologists and multiple treating physicians in different locations. PACS functions as major system for rapid transfer of images, while maintaining the original quality is a vital, rather complex technological need. 

Also, hard-copy films are difficult to store and archive, and the quality deteriorates over time (although electronic media are not immune to the latter issue).

Capital cost was a major limitation in the early years but entry of multiple vendors into the market, as well as the geometric increase in processing power and digital storage has significantly brought expense down. PACS vendors can now offer scalable high-quality systems with flexible configurations along with affordable hardware and software support.

The vital limitation of PACS or teleradiology devices, is the quality of images, which may be compromised by suboptimal resolution display monitors at different locations. Also, any technical failure, and improper back-up storage may hold back the data retrieval and carries the rare risk of massive data loss.

The systems accommodate to a wide variety of health care divisions including: IDTF, emergency centers, orthopedics, cardiology, hospitals, teleradiology, and numerous more for Cloud PACS.

Undeniably, a cloud-based PACS reduces overall costs since IT systems management is outsourced from IT experts. With the presence of a reliable, high speed internet connection, the adoption of cloud-based PACS can be fully operational.