This is another one of those “Amazing Fact” kind of stories about the DICOM* Standard. 

 

If a hospital is going to take an X-ray (or MR or CT or Ultrasound scan) of a patient, we expect them to keep a record of the patient’s name and, probably, some identifying number.  They’ll want to know when the procedure was performed, who performed it, who requested it, where to send the results, and a lot of other things.  The DICOM Standard prescribes a very specific way of keeping track of all the images and related data. 

 

The same kind of record keeping is used by veterinarians who order medical imaging procedures for animals.  However, there are some differences.  I’m sure that the technologist who performed an MRI on your shoulder did not record the name of your OWNER, but the veterinarian does need to know who owns Fluffy.  He also needs to record whether Fluffy is a biped or a quadruped because this will determine the kind of coordinate system one must use to record locations in the animal.  The DICOM Standard provides a space to record all that information.  Additionally, the veterinarian needs to know the animal’s species.  Once again, the Standard provides for recording that information.  But it isn’t quite as simple as writing the name of the species in a blank space on a sheet of paper.  There are far too many choices; if you merely provide a place for write-ins, the potential for errors is unacceptably large.  To address this need, the Standard allows one to select from a list of the various possible species.  And, now, for the Amazing Fact: 

 

The DICOM Standard provides numeric codes for some eight different species of dogs, cats, cows, horses, pigs, goats, and sheep.  However, there are no fewer than 2150 breeds of these animals and 23 breed registries – most of them American and most of them for dogs.  Among these many breeds you will find such oddities as:

  • Treeing walker coonhound
  • Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police horse
  • Manxamese cat
  • Peacock goat and
  • Over 200 cattle breeds.

But among all of these, my personal favorite is a particular domestic medium-haired cat named Casper. 

 

    *In case you’re not familiar with the term, DICOM is an acronym that stands for Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine.  This is the name of a 3300 page standard whose main purpose is to make sure that the next piece of medical imaging equipment that a hospital buys will work with every other piece of medical imaging equipment that it already has.

 


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