Fairly recently I had some medical images that I needed to check, and I wasn't on my usual computer. But I thought, that’s not a problem, I'll simply download one of the many free DICOM viewers and use that. However, after a few rapid searches, I kept getting stuck (or rather tricked into thinking things were free, when they clearly weren’t...).
After about an hour of searching I finally found two viewers that I can recommend. But I’m really interested to find out if people have better options. So please let me know your thoughts in the comments section.
What is a DICOM image, and why can’t I open it?
Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) is both a communications protocol and a file format, which means it can store medical information, such as ultrasound and MRI images, along with a patient's information, all in one file. The files usually have the .dcm or .dicom extension. This is incredibly useful for medical professionals, but really complicated for your average person (or even your average computer) to understand.
Why is trust so important when dealing with medical images?
Medical images and related personal information must be treated with both sensitivity and privacy. The information is seen as a treasure trove for criminals and should always be protected. DICOM is not secure, but can easily be used in secure environments. You just need to be aware that if you share DICOM files with people, they may also include personal details about you and your medical notes.
Can you trust the software that you use to open medical images?
Don’t just download some random free bit of software from the Internet. When installing any software on your computer you should use a reputable source to ensure that you don’t get some fake or malicious virus, trojan etc. This can be particularly problematic when using free software. And, as I’ve already said, with medical images the level of trust you need is much higher.
So to save you time and worry, I simply recommend two options...
Option 1: MicroDicom
If you are using Microsoft Windows then give MicroDicom a try:
It’s free for personal use and looks like this...
Option 2: Horos
And if you are using an Apple Mac, try Horos:
This is excellent and not only free for personal use but also open source...
Why is the fact that Horos is open source important when it comes to trust?
Open source software is far more secure, reliable and trustworthy than proprietary software because lots of people keep a close eye on it to make sure it's safe. I won’t bang on about it too much in this blog but believe me, you can’t go wrong with an open source product with a large community of users like Horos. If you’re interested in learning more about this then Google the phrase “Free as in freedom, not free as in beer.”
Please let me know how you get on in the comments section. Also, if you find better options than these let me know and I’ll be happy to update the blog!