Bernard A. Walsh
MVB, MRCVS, CVR, DACVR
Teleradiology is the sending of patient’s x-ray, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images over the Internet or a local area network (LAN) for example. Images may be sent directly from the x-ray department to the specialists office in the same building or indeed to a specialist’s computer in another city or country.
Teleradiology improves patient care as it enables the provision of specialist care without the specialist actually having to be at the location of the patient. Teleradiology allows for highly trained specialists with hard-to-find expertise to be available to help colleagues anywhere in the world.
Once the radiologist has received the images, a technology called a DICOM reader is used to download, arrange and display the images in a meaningful format. DICOM stands for Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine and is an industry standard for handling, storing, printing and transmitting information in medical imaging. DICOM images enables the integration of scanners, servers, workstations, printers and network hardware from multiple known manufacturers into a picture archiving and communication system or PACS.
What this means in practice in veterinary medicine where specialists are in very short supply, is that x-ray images taken in Liverpool may be reported on by a veterinary specialist in Los Angeles or an MRI scan of Mrs Smith’s cat in Delhi may be read within an hour by a veterinary radiologist in Dublin. Or in a busy hospital, x-rays of a dog’s broken leg may be sent instantaneously from the x-ray unit to the computer in the consulting room with the owner is waiting with the vet.
Teleradiology is a very rapidly growing area within medicine and veterinary medicine. As technology improves and its cost decreases, teleradiology will significantly help animal care by allowing vets in practice almost instant access to hard-to-find specialist knowledge. In this new digital age, X-rays, CT and MRI scans of veterinary patients can be read by a specialist veterinary radiologist anywhere at the push of a button or the click of a mouse!