While the first digital, filmless hospital was created just seven years ago, PACS is now an accepted technology, offering radiologists and other clinicians the ability to retrieve, share, and remotely access complex, two-dimensional (2D) scan data. The amount of information that must be processed, however, has grown exponentially, taxing the ability of standard desktop workstations to process and display the data in a timely fashion.
Radiologists today are experiencing "slice overload"; it is simply not possible to efficiently view thousands of single images in a reasonable amount of time. As a result, more clinicians are now looking toward volume reconstructions, rather than a multitude of static scans, as an efficient and optimal use of the entire scanned data set. With volume exploration capabilities, researchers can examine scans much more accurately and faster, discovering anomalies that would simply not be apparent through a multitude of two-dimensional views.
"We're undergoing a revolution in CT scanning as a digital input modality", stated Robert Cooke, Fuji's executive director of marketing, network systems. "Volume exploration will make much more accurate diagnoses possible, creating great benefits for science and ultimately the patient."
Fuji and SGI are creating a system that eliminates the digital bottlenecks of ever expanding data, making rapid, economical volume exploration a reality. To accomplish this, data no longer will be rendered on a radiologist or doctor's desktop but rather at a centralized 3D graphics server. Using SGI's shared-memory and single system image architecture integrated with multiple ATI FireGL graphics processor units (GPUs), data processing tasks can be divided between GPUs to minimize rendering time and maximize image quality.
"We are proud of the impact that ATI FireGL workstation graphics accelerators are having today in powering the next generation of medical imaging solutions", stated Dinesh Sharma, director of Workstation products, ATI Technologies. "Together with Fuji and SGI, ATI is pleased to be playing a key role in bringing to the medical community new capabilities that will dramatically improve the diagnostic process for medical professionals and their patients."
The Silicon Graphics Prism visualization system brings the following benefits to the new Fuji volume exploration PACS solution. First, there is the short response time. Radiologists and clinicians can start interacting with the data within seconds because rendering is local to where these large data sets are stored. SGI Visual Area Networking (VAN) technology sends just the reconstructed voxels to the radiologist's desktop while data still resides on the server.
SGI also offers scalability in data handling capability. Large data sets can be loaded in main memory due to the 64-bit architecture. System resources such as CPUs, I/O, memory, storage, and graphics, can be independently expanded as the hospital's needs grow.
Using dynamic load balancing, the radiologist is not limited to the texture capacity of a GPU and can utilize the scalability of the Silicon Graphics Prism architecture to load more studies for the best diagnosis. Dynamic load balancing does not limit radiological studies to the capacity of modern day GPUs.
The SGI solution provides scalability in the number of users - multiple users can share the same system due to scalable architecture - and scalability in rendering quality. Modern GPUs coupled with scalability allow high-quality rendering algorithms to be deployed. This way a volume can be interactively rendered by a user and "tumbled" without the resolution sacrifice all other 3D systems make. This is a key enabling technology so that diagnoses can be made with volumes when there is no a priori knowledge of where the radiologist needs to look for potential disease processes.
The system maintains existing work flow. Unlike proprietary systems from other providers, the Fujifilm and SGI solution brings no changes to the standard diagnostic Synapse work flow. Scans are accessed through the standard Internet Explorer Web browser interface, and data is transferred through the IP network. Physicians use their existing monitors and drives; no equipment upgrade or system re-education is necessary. And because the Silicon Graphics Prism system will reside alongside Synapse, the two will integrate seamlessly. Researchers can easily access volume data using the same work flow techniques with which they are already familiar.
The Silicon Graphics Prism system brings Visual Area Networking (VAN) technology to diagnostic scan analysis, making it possible to rapidly render and transmit volume exploration data to virtually any desktop workstation without sending the data across the network.
VAN through SGI OpenGL Vizserver software enables the transfer of rich data between the Silicon Graphics Prism and a thin client. To keep the files small, VAN technology transmits only the pixels of the rendered graphic, rather than the raw data itself. As a result, VAN technology can operate on virtually any type of client, including laptops, workstations and, eventually, even PDAs.
With the Fuji and SGI PACS solution, components will be sourced from a number of manufacturers offering best-of-breed technologies. The Silicon Graphics Prism system runs the rock-solid Linux OS based on Intel Itanium 2 processors and ATI FireGL GPUs.
"The combination of Silicon Graphics Prism visualization system and Fuji's Synapse PACS solution provides hospitals with a very cost-effective, powerful and flexible centralized system. As technology grows customers will be able to leverage the latest innovations in compute and visualization without changing the entire PACS infrastructure", stated Afshad Mistri, senior manager of Advanced Visualization, SGI.
It should be noted that Synapse - SGI image visualization requires FDA 510K review and is not yet currently available for sale. The SGI-based volume visualization component of Synapse is anticipated to be released in 2007.
As one of the Fuji Photo Film family of companies with 70 years of imaging experience and nearly $25 billion in sales, Fujifilm Medical Systems is a provider of diagnostic imaging products and network systems to meet the needs of health care facilities today and well into the future. Fuji's Synapse PACS provides a seamless solution for managing, storing and distributing images and information throughout the entire health care enterprise. Its Web integrated design and hardware independence provide a technological infrastructure and deployment model that can be expanded upon in a myriad of ways to adapt to evolving technologies. Fuji is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut. More company news can be found in the VMW November 2005 article Fuji upgrades Synapse PACS to Barco's 3D imaging software.