Transfer Syntax

Transfer Syntax is the language used in DICOM to describe the DICOM file format and the network transfer methods. 3 main variables are contained in the Transfer Syntax:

For DICOM Files, the Transfer Syntax is stored in the File Meta Header, and for networking it is negotiated between the SCU & SCP. For more information about how the negotiation happens and how to control the network transfer using Transfer Syntax can be found here.

Here is a summary of the most common DICOM Transfer syntaxes:


Implicit VR Little-endian

Explicit VR Little-endian

Explicit VR Big-endian

NOTE: All the compressed syntaxes below use explicit VR little endian.

Lossless Compressed

Lossless methods are truly lossless, and the output is guaranteed to match the input exactly, and therefore there is no concept of quality…..the degree of compression depends only on the method used, and the nature of the image (noise compresses badly!)

JPEG Lossless

JPEG Lossless First Order

RLE Lossless

JPEG 2000 (Lossless)

JPEG-LS (Lossless)

Lossy Compressed

JPEG Baseline

JPEG Extended

JPEG 2000 (lossy)

JPEG-LS (Lossy)

MPEG Transfer Syntaxes

Unlike the other transfer syntaxes, the MPEG transfer syntaxes treat the video “as a whole” rather than as a series of individually compressed frames.  Due to the DICOM fragment rules, they are limited to 4 GBytes in total, as only 1 single fragment is permitted.



Special Transfer Syntaxes




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