In order to encode or decode a DICOM object, or to perform troubleshooting, it is important to understand its specification, i.e. its Information Object Definition, or IOD. These IODs are specified using modules, which consist of the most basic DICOM unit, the data element or attribute.

The modules are described as a group of data elements.

Many parts of several DICOM objects are identical. Take, for example, a CT and MR image object. They both contain patient information, study information, equipment information and image pixels. These image objects are very similar, except for the fact that a CT image is acquired using X-Rays and MRI images use a strong magnetic field - each of which requires unique attributes. Therefore, the DICOM standard uses modules to group information items that are similar for multiple objects so they only have to be defined once in the standard.

The DICOM standard specifies the relationship of these modules with real-world information entities (IEs) as defined in the DICOM Information Model. For example, a patient module is related to the real-world patient information entity, and contains patient name, birth date, sex, etc.

The IOD definitions, as specified in Part 3 of the standard, start with a module table for each modality type, and list all of the modules included in that IOD. Some modules are mandatory (M), some optional (U) and others conditional (C).


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