Tablet PCs show promise as mobile PACS workstations

VANCOUVER - Wireless-enabled tablet PCs can yield equivalent performance to high-resolution monitors for clinical image review, according to a limited study presented Saturday at the 21st annual meeting of the Society for Computer Applications in Radiology (SCAR).

"(Our) small-scale study supports the use of tablet PCs in the viewing of high-resolution CR images in some clinical applications without compromise of diagnostic accuracy," said Dr. Wen-Jeng Lee of National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) in Taipei.

To test the hypothesis that tablet PCs could be deployed as mobile PACS workstations, researchers from NTUH compared a tablet PC (TC 1000, Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto, CA), with a PACS workstation powered by a high-resolution grayscale CRT for the evaluation of urolithiasis on abdominal plain film.

The tablet PC was equipped with a 10.4-inch, 1024 x 768-resolution color monitor, while the PACS workstation offered a resolution of 2048 x 2560 pixels. The researchers examined 80 patients who were referred to NTUH's medical imaging department for intravenous urography (IVU).

CR images were collected before IV contrast injection for each IVU procedure. Two general radiologists then reviewed the images on both the tablet PC and the PACS workstation using the same software, blinded to the clinical information and results of the IVU.

Each radiologist scored the presence of urolithiasis on a five-point scale. The urolithiasis was divided by the researchers into two groups: renal stones and ureteral stones. The study team then performed receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis, using IVU and clinical follow-up as the reference standard.

The average area under the ROC curve in detecting renal stones on the tablet PC was 0.924, and 0.927 for the diagnostic PACS workstation. For ureteral stones, the average area under the ROC curve was 0.828 for the tablet PC and 0.783 for the PACS workstation. There were no statistically significant differences between the two display types, Lee said.

Lee said that the study had limitations, including its analysis only of urolithiasis on abdominal plain film. In addition, there was a small patient sample, which may have obscured interpretive differences, he said.

The researchers affirmed that tablet PCs are not suitable for primary diagnosis, citing factors such as the longer image transfer times over the wireless local-area network (WLAN) as well as the CPU speed of the tablet PCs, which slows image manipulation.

"It takes about twice as long to (make a diagnosis on tablet PCs)," Lee said.

By Erik L. Ridley staff writer
May 23, 2004

Related Reading

New wireless network options offer benefits, despite security concerns, April 2, 2004

Tablet PC eases image distribution to bedside, March 23, 2004

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