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August 2015

Technology and Technique Standards for Camera-Acquired Digital Dermatologic Images: A Systematic Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Dermatology Service, Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York
  • 2Medical Library, Information Systems, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York
JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(8):883-890. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.33

Importance  Photographs are invaluable dermatologic diagnostic, management, research, teaching, and documentation tools. Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) standards exist for many types of digital medical images, but there are no DICOM standards for camera-acquired dermatologic images to date.

Objective  To identify and describe existing or proposed technology and technique standards for camera-acquired dermatologic images in the scientific literature.

Evidence Review  Systematic searches of the PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases were performed in January 2013 using photography and digital imaging, standardization, and medical specialty and medical illustration search terms and augmented by a gray literature search of 14 websites using Google. Two reviewers independently screened titles of 7371 unique publications, followed by 3 sequential full-text reviews, leading to the selection of 49 publications with the most recent (1985-2013) or detailed description of technology or technique standards related to the acquisition or use of images of skin disease (or related conditions).

Findings  No universally accepted existing technology or technique standards for camera-based digital images in dermatology were identified. Recommendations are summarized for technology imaging standards, including spatial resolution, color resolution, reproduction (magnification) ratios, postacquisition image processing, color calibration, compression, output, archiving and storage, and security during storage and transmission. Recommendations are also summarized for technique imaging standards, including environmental conditions (lighting, background, and camera position), patient pose and standard view sets, and patient consent, privacy, and confidentiality. Proposed standards for specific-use cases in total body photography, teledermatology, and dermoscopy are described.

Conclusions and Relevance  The literature is replete with descriptions of obtaining photographs of skin disease, but universal imaging standards have not been developed, validated, and adopted to date. Dermatologic imaging is evolving without defined standards for camera-acquired images, leading to variable image quality and limited exchangeability. The development and adoption of universal technology and technique standards may first emerge in scenarios when image use is most associated with a defined clinical benefit.

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