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Medical Imaging with DICOM files


DICOM is the industry standard format for medical scans. Learn how DICOM files are used with Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended to create animations and measurements.

Opening DICOM Files

To open DICOM files, open the File menu and choose Open. Browse for the DICOM file and click Open.


Photoshop Open

Once you click Open, a window will appear with settings you can modify.

Photoshop DICOM



On the left, you can select which frame to view and open. To open a single frame, select the frame and click open. To select more than one, hold the CTRL key and click. To select all the frames, click the Select All button.

DICOM Dataset Options

There are two options in this area you can modify


Checking this option will anonymize the file by replacing all patients metadata with "anonymize".

Show Overlays

If your file has overlays such as annotations, curves, or text, you can check this box to display those overlays.


Windowing lets you adjust the brightness and contrast of the image. To view all the Windowing options, check the Show Windowing Options checkbox located below the image.


There are 5 presets you can choose from:
  • Default
  • Lung
  • Bone
  • Abdomen
  • Full

Manual Adjustments

Or, you can manually adjust the settings using your mouse:

  1. Click on the Window Level Tool button to select the Window Level tool.
  2. Click on the middle of the image and drag the tool up or down to adjust the level.
  3. Drag the tool left or right to adjust the width.

Reverse Image

To reverse the image, simply check the Reverse Image checkbox.

Frame Import Options

This area lets you choose how you would like to open the images.

Layers vs N-Up

N-Up Configuration

Import frames as layers

This option will import frames into layers. This option is useful for manipulating the image or creating an animation.

N-up Configuration

This option will tile the frames onto one layer. Select this option if you would like to print the frames onto transparencies.

{mospagebreak title=Creating an Animation}

Creating an Animation

Step 1

Open a DICOM file. Open the File menu and select Open. Browse for a DICOM file (.dc3, .dcm, .dic, or no extension) and click OK

Step 2

Press the Select All button to select all the frames. In the Frame Import Options, choose Import frames as layers. Apply any other settings needed then click OK.

DICOM Window

Step 3

You should now have each frame as layers. Select all the layers by pressing Alt+Ctrl+A or going into the Select menu and choosing All Layers.

Frames as Layers

Step 4

Open the Animation window by going into the Window menu and selecting Animation.

Photoshop Animation Pallet

Step 5

In the Animation pallet, click on the flyout button located near the top right to open the flyout menu. In the flyout menu, select Make Frames From Layers.

Make Frames From Layers

Step 6

If the Animation window is not in Frame view, press the Frame View button to convert the animation into a frame animation. If it's already in frame view, you can skip this step.

Timeline vs Frames

Step 7

Now we need to set how many times it should loop. Click on the bottom right menu to select how the animation should loop. To have the animation loop forever, select Forever.

Loop Forever

Step 8

To save the animation as an animated GIF file, use the Save for Web & Devices tool. To open the Save for Web & Devices tool, press Shift+Ctrl+S or open the File menu and select Save for Web & Devices. In the Save for Web & Devices tool, Select a GIF preset and modify the settings if necessary. Click the Save button when you are ready to save.

Photoshop Save for Web & Devices

Final Results

Heart Animation

{mospagebreak title=Measuring}


We can use the measurement tool to measure parts in the medical image.

Step 1

First, we need to set the measurement scale. To do this, we need to know the measurement of one part in the image. For this photo of a knee, the thickness of the knee was measured as 4.65 inch. To set the measurement scale with this data, go into the Analysis>Set Measurement Scale menu and select Custom. When the Measurement Scale window appears, draw a line on the image to indicate the area you would like to set the measurement for. For this image of a knee, I drew a horizontal line across the entire width of the knee. Next, enter in the Logical Length and Logical Units field the measurement. For this image, the knee was measured to be 4.65 inch so I entered 4.65 in the Logical Length field and inch in the Logical Units field. Click OK when done.

Photoshop Custom Measure

Step 2

Open the Measurement Log window by going into the Window and selecting Measurement Log.

Measurement Log

Step 3

Now, select the Measurement tool from the tool bar or by going into the Analysis menu and selecting Ruler Tool. Draw a line indicating the area you would like to measure and click the Record Measurements button in the Measurement Log window. The data is now recorded in the Measurement Log.

Ruler Tool

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