Figuring out how to view a DICOM image on a Mac can be a frustrating process. It’s difficult to tell whether the inability to open your important scans is the result of a faulty computer, a defective file, or just a bad internet connection.
Like most files, it seems like DICOM files should just open as they are, but you’ve probably realized that it isn’t so simple.
There are many ways to view a DICOM image on a Mac: You could insert a disc containing the photos into your computer; you can also review DICOM images from an online database. However, the most common method is installing a DICOM viewing software for easy viewing and editing or using cloud-based PACS.
While there’s no wrong way for viewing DICOM images, some methods may be more attractive to you, depending on your needs. There are many different versions of the software that you can download to view DICOM images on a Mac, each coming with their own perks and tools.
DICOM Image Files
DICOM, or Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine, are images that contain important medical information such as x-rays or CAT scans. They exist as both a file format and communications protocol, meaning that they store patient information and images in the same file.
In the 21st century, technology has crept its way into all aspects of life, including medicine. DICOM files were created to maintain standards and uniformity across different categories of medical images.
DICOM images are commonly used in medical applications, such as in med school, and in hospitals for sharing digital information with clients and patients. They are the file type in which people view important documents.
How to Access DICOM Images on a Mac
DICOM images cannot be opened like regular images on laptops or phones like other file types; DICOM images are very particular in their accessibility. Fortunately, there are various ways you can view your DICOM image on your Mac, but which method you determine to be the most feasible depends on your circumstances.
Whenever you finish getting a procedure at the hospital that requires imaging to be done, your doctor will usually give you a disc that you can insert into your laptop or computer, allowing you to view the DICOM images/files for your leisure. On the CD, there can sometimes already be a medical imaging viewer included, but if not, some CDs will come with a link to the application that allows you to download an appropriate DICOM viewer.
Online databases serve as great options for students who are interested in learning or people who are simply curious. However, not all of these options are free for everyone, and they tend to be restricted to those with an account; some of the features may be locked behind a paywall, or your ability to access these files can be altogether prohibited unless you provide valid credentials.
The DICOM Library is a popular database to view DICOM images from. It’s a place where you’re allowed to upload DICOM files from your laptop/mac (as long as they’re anonymized beforehand) and view the image without needing to download a DICOM viewing software.
Within this site, you’re allowed to modify the image and upload different photos to different screen quadrants.
For example, if you’re interested in an in-depth look at brain scans where you need to see multiple perspectives at once, the DICOM Library allows you to get a birds-eye view of scans and precise measurements of whatever it is that you’re looking at. You can even download the image as well.
Another online database for your viewing needs is OsiriX Viewer. With a valid account and access to a premium membership, you’ll gain access to the anonymized datasets and DICOM images that this site provides. It’s explicitly for researching and teaching purposes only, so if you fall within the categories of student, curious onlooker, or professor, then this option is great for you.
OsiriX Viewer is compatible with Mac as well, so you can view any DICOM images of your choosing. However, if you don’t have a DICOM image viewing software already installed on your device, then you’ll find yourself unable to open the files from this site.
How to View DICOM Images on a Mac
While accessing DICOM images is important, depending on where and how you access the photos, viewing the pictures on your Mac can be another issue. There are two ways you can view DICOM images: through “proprietary software” or third-party software.
Proprietary software is only available to medical imaging devices. It’s typically created by the same manufacturer and allows users to reconstruct and view the image at the same workstation immediately; this means that the photos can only be reviewed in the same location as the hardware.
While images can be transferred to an additional device through export, usually after this process is done, the ability to view and edit the original image is completely lost.
Without a DICOM CD that comes with a link to an image viewing software or proprietary software, chances are your Mac isn’t able to load and view DICOM images properly. With that being said, you’re going to need to install software that allows you to view any DICOM images you have on your Mac computer or laptop.
There are various third-party applications you can choose from when it comes to DICOM image viewing. There are both paid and free versions available, with paid versions typically offering more or enhanced features.
Which application you choose to use ultimately depends on how you plan on using the software; different people use DICOM images for various reasons. For example, an anatomy professor will have different needs than a medical professional.
DICOM image viewers generally allow users to:
- View images
- Export images (for teaching purposes or giving presentations)
- Save and store files
- Share images with other healthcare professionals
- Access Mini-PACS servers
- Research images and files
(Source: Post DICOM)
These applications are practically limitless, with many third-parties developing their own versions of the same DICOM image viewing function.
Below is a list of the different viewing software available for Mac devices:
OsiriX MD DICOM Viewer
OsiriX MD is a suitable option for practicing health professionals who need something fast and reliable for their work. Cleared by the FDA as a Class II Medical Device, OsiriX is renowned as the most widely used medical image viewer globally. Its overwhelming popularity is a testament to its quality.
After a quick five-minute installation, you’ll have access to a full workstation with the ability to access scans such as MRIs. Additionally, it lives up to DICOM viewing standards, providing 2D viewing, 3D and 4D navigation options, and many more features.
There is a free version of OsiriX MD, with limited features and slower processing, while the full version has a monthly fee to use.
Horos is designed to be a “mobile” application, offering similar features as the highly acclaimed Osirix MD mentioned above. The app runs successfully on Mac OS versions 10.8 or higher, so if your Mac isn’t up to date, you might want to consider running a different, less technologically demanding viewing software for your needs.
Horos has various tools that allow you to manipulate images, so if you’re a professor needing to make a presentation, this is a great option for you. It has the added benefit of coming with fleshed-out, comprehensive tutorials for using the software, so it’s also beginner-friendly.
Also, Horus comes with an optional plug-in that allows you to upload your images to Radiopedia, arguably the best free online resource for case studies and articles in radiology. Horos gives you the ability to:
- Manipulate and measure your images’ specs
- Render surfaces
- Use image fusion for scans
Post DICOM is easily one of the best software to have downloaded on your Mac because it offers the majority of DICOM viewing/editing features not found on other applications. Not only is it available for Mac, but its compatibility extends to any operating system running Windows as well. It also offers convenience that many other DICOM viewing software don’t by being available for mobile iOS devices.
Post DICOM allows for image manipulation, 3D reconstruction, MIP, MRP, and image fusion. It also comes with an additional 50GB of free cloud storage; this is great because DICOM images are typically high-quality and take up a lot of memory to store.
3Dim Viewer is a free application available to download on Mac OS X and Linux systems. This is a relatively basic DICOM viewing software intended only for those with a casual need for image viewing. It comes with a variety of features such as:
- 3D visualizing DICOM images
- Multiplanar and orthogonal views of images
- Ability to adjust density window
- Measuring scan density and size
- Importing DICOM datasets
- Rendering 3D surface and volume
- Tissue segmentation
- Surface modeling
(Source: 3Dim Viewer)
Note: 3Dim Viewer requires a solid graphics card to take advantage of its unique features, such as rendering 3D surfacing. For that reason, this application is only suitable for devices with an updated graphics card, which may or may not apply to your Mac device.
Available for free installation from the Mac App Store, Miele-LXIV is a DICOM viewing software featuring an intuitive GUI, allowing for DICOM image displays with an accessible interface. It will enable you to view multiple layouts and export videos or images.
Miele-LXIV also includes multiple hardware improvements for Mac to improve your DICOM image viewing experience, such as:
- Multi-core processor support
- Asynchronous reading
- OpenGL for 2D Viewer and all 3D Viewers
- Accelerated graphics board, with 3D texture mapping support
Miele-LXIV is perfect for developers as well, as it grants the ability for you to build your own plug-ins because of its built-in architecture support.
SMILI, which stands for Simple Medical Imaging Library Interface, is an open-source, easy to use DICOM program built to work on all devices, not just Mac OS. SMILI possesses many of the same features as the other applications listed here.
For one, it grants you control over measurements and editing DICOM images, as well as other advanced display options. There are easy drag and drop options for dealing with models and surfaces. SMILI also allows you to anonymize the image in question, which is important for working on, viewing, and presenting scans to other medical professionals or classes.
Other features of SMILI include:
- Image processing
- Surface/model processing
- Surface/model visualization
- n-D image visualization
- Deformation field visualization
- DICOM and DICOM RT support
- Shape modeling
- Python scripting
- Polygonal contouring
- Animating surfaces
(Source: Source Forge)
Using Cloud-Based PACS to View DICOM Images
PACS, otherwise known as a Picture Archiving Communication System, is a medical imaging technology initially designed to surpass physical medical imaging limitations.
PACS grant heightened efficiency in retrieving files. It mainly functions as a superior option for storage and makes it possible to retrieve images from multiple sites. PACS usually have display stations, which are external devices—specifically designed with confidentiality in mind to—view photos and videos. PACS systems are linked to a computer network that connects the system’s hardware and software components.
Cloud-based PACS overcome the challenge of the ever-increasing size of data and demand for hard drive and memory space. A decade ago, the number of images taken for a thorax CT amounted to 30-50 images and resulted in a measly 15-25 MB of space needed; today, the number of pictures taken has increased to up to 5,000 photos, demanding a greater 250-2,500 MB of space required.
Benefits of Cloud-Based PACS
Cloud-based PACS provides the storage that PACS normally offers but from the cloud, freeing up room for devices such as your Mac to act as display stations for viewing important data. Some of the benefits of using cloud-based PACS include, but aren’t limited to:
- Safer Storage: Ordinarily, since PACS are connected to the hardware that creates DICOM images, if something were to happen to the hardware, then so would the storage for the data. When information is saved to the cloud, you never have to worry about this issue.
- Easy Access for Macs: With everything in the cloud, doctors, patients, and anyone else granted access can view data outside of the hospital. As long as you have an internet connection, you can access and view DICOM images.
- Relatively Inexpensive to Use: Depending on its complexity, traditional PACS can cost a minimum of $5,000 for a simple system and easily up to $100,000 for a complex system. Cloud-based PACS typically offer a free trial version of the system, then more affordable monthly or yearly subscription payments.
- No Installations Needed: With a regular DICOM image viewer, you would have to either install the software on your Mac or download an app for your devices. With Cloud-based PACS, there’s no need for extra installations. A cloud-based DICOM viewer makes viewing DICOM images on Macs—and just about any device with a suitable internet connection—so much more accessible.
Cloud-Based PACS Platforms
Similarly to DICOM image viewing software, there are many different options available to you if you’re interested in cloud-based PACS:
- Post DICOM – In addition to the 50 free GB of storage offered with their image reading software, you have the option of expanding your storage as needed with Post DICOM’s different storage plans. Starting at $39.99 for 200 GB of cloud storage, you have the option of increasing the storage space, additional users, and monthly shares with each subsequent plan. Each plan comes with a free trial as well.
- Quickpacs – Quickpacs is a premium cloud-based storage platform for your DICOM image needs and works on Mac and PC. Your images will be available all the time, and Quickpacs offer a 24/7 customer support line with their service. They also provide individual image archiving. Quickpacs also has a free trial, though pricing is only determined after you’ve received a quote for your needs.
- Cloud 9 PACS – Offering a similar cloud storage solution as the previous two options, Cloud 9 PACS has a flat rate charge if you’re looking for an affordable option.
Below is a good video on PACS:
Accessing DICOM images on a Mac can be done through DICOM CDs post-operation or online DICOM databases.
Viewing DICOM images, unless you’re able to export a file into a more accessible file type, requires you to download a DICOM image reader software. If you’re not interested in that, there is also the affordable option of subscribing to a cloud-based PACS, which serves as both a storage solution and a DICOM reader.
Ultimately, when choosing a DICOM image software, it’s best to look for something that suits your specific needs as all image readers and cloud storage options offer something slightly different.
Click the following link to learn how to email DICOM images.