Open source probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about medicine. But with standards for exchanging digital data comes a foot in the door for open source. By implementing these standards, open source gives patients access to their medical data. An example is MRI image data.

MRI and its imaging data

Doctors commonly use MRIs to diagnose physiological problems. The MRI gives them a high resolution, three dimensional view inside the patient’s body. They use the imaging data to determine signs of disease or injury, and more accurately treat the patient.

The image data from the MRI can be stored in various ways. Most vendors now support the DICOM standard for storing and transmitting medical imaging data. Imaging facilities often will provide data directly to the patient either by default or on request on a CD-R.

Fortunately, Fedora provides a reader for DICOM data in its standard repository. Now you can look at your own imaging if you like!

Enter aeskulap

The package for reading DICOM data is called aeskulap. To install it, launch the Software app in Fedora Workstation, search for aeskulap or DICOM, then select and install the package. Alternately, run this command in a terminal using sudo:

sudo dnf -y install aeskulap

Once installed, launch the application, or type aeskulap at the command line prompt.

The aeskulap application doesn’t just work with CDs. It can also use imaging servers that provide DICOM data over a network. This article deals with the simple case of data on a CD.

Reading your MRI data

Insert the CD from your doctor’s office into your system. From the File menu, choose DicomDir. Then in the file selector, choose the DICOMDIR file on your CD.

(If your CD doesn’t have this file, or a folder called DICOM, check with your doctor to ensure their equipment uses this standard.)

Selecting DICOMDIR in aeskulap

Once you open this file, your MRI data is loaded in the study manager window. You can select the dropdown triangle to see the different data series from your MRI.

MRI data in aeskulap study manager

To view the imaging data, select the patient name, not the individual series. Then wait while the data is loaded.

Once all the series load, you can select any series to view. Use the wheel on your mouse, or the window’s scrollbar, to move quickly across the scan layers. Think of these layers as slices of your anatomy. Doctors use their expertise to “see” these layers in three dimensions to diagnose your issue.

Viewing your own internal body structures can be an amazing experience. Thanks to modern technology and open standards, you can witness your own anatomical details using free software provided in Fedora.