Extension of the image network within radiotherapy departments provides the technical infrastructure which is made necessary by the rapid evolution of techniques in the field of diagnosis and treatment in radiotherapy. The system is aimed at managing the whole set of data (textual data and images) that are needed for planning and control of treatments. The radiotherapy network addresses two objectives: managing both the information necessary for treatment planning (target volumes definition, planning dosimetry) and the control of all parameters involved during the patient's treatment under the treatment unit. The major challenge is to improve the quality of treatment. Multimodal imaging is a major advance as it allows the use of new dosimetry and simulation techniques. The need for standards to exchange medical imaging information is now recognized by all the institutions and a majority of users and manufacturers. It is widely accepted that the lack of standard has been one of the fundamental obstacles in the deployment of operational 'Picture Archiving Communication Systems'. The International Standard Organisation Open System Interconnection model is the standard reference mode used to describe network protocols. The network is based on the Ethernet and TCP/IP protocol that provides the means to interconnect imaging devices and workstations dedicated to specific image processing or machines used in radiotherapy. The network uses Ethernet cabled on twisted-pair (10 BaseT) or optical fibres in a star-shaped physical layout. Dicom V3.0 supports fundamental network interactions: transfer of images (computerized tomography magnetic resonance imaging query and retrieve of images), printing on network attached cameras, support of HIS/RIS related interfacing and image management. The supplement to the Dicom standard, Dicom RT, specifies five data objects known in Dicom as Information Object Definition for relevant radiotherapy. Dicom RT objects can provide a mean for standardized transfer of most of the information which circulates in a radiotherapy department. A wide range of device types are represented, (treatment planning systems, portal imaging devices, linear accelerators, recording and verifying systems, conventional and virtual simulators). There will be additions and perhaps new developments in dataflow management, more complete integration with HIS/RIS system and printing, but the lion's share of the work has now been done. A project to integrate some security features into the Dicom protocol has begun.
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