DICOM PS3.15 2017d - Security and System Management Profiles

E.3.5 Clean Descriptors Option

Even though many Attributes are defined in the DICOM Standard for specific purposes, such as to describe a Study or a Series, those that contain plain text over which an operator has control may contain unstructured information that includes identities.

When this Option is specified in addition to an Application Level Confidentiality Profile, any information that is embedded in text or string Attributes corresponding to the Attribute information specified to be removed by the Profile and any other Options specified shall also be removed, as described in Table E.1-1.


  1. For example, an operator may include a person's name or a patient's demographics or physical characteristics in the Study Description (0008,1030), perhaps because their modality user interface does not provide other fields or because other systems do not display them. E.g., the description might contain "CT chest abdomen pelvis - 55F Dr. Smith".

  2. One approach to cleaning such text strings without human intervention is to extract and retain only values known to be useful and safe and discard all others. For example, in the string "CT chest abdomen pelvis - 55F Dr. Smith" are found in Study Description (0008,1030), then it would be feasible to detect and retain "CT chest abdomen pelvis" and discard the remainder. In an international setting, this may require an extensive dictionary of words that are safe to retain, e.g., to detect "Buik" for abdomen in Dutch or "λεκάνη" for pelvis in Greek. Another possibility is to extract such information and attempt to code the information in other Attributes (if otherwise absent or empty) such as Anatomic Region Sequence (0008,2218). However, the possibility of string values being both identifying and descriptive in different uses needs to be considered, e.g., "Dr. Hand" or "M. Genou".

  3. Table E.1-1 calls out specific Attributes known to be at risk, but an implementer may want to consider any attribute that could potential contain character data, though this Option does not require that this be done. For example, all SH, LO, ST, LT and UT Value Representations could perhaps be misused. Code strings, CS, are not generally at risk, but a check against known Defined Terms and Enumerated Values could be performed. Though extremely unusual, it is conceivable that even a DS or IS string could be misused, and a check could be made that only legal numeric characters were used. Any PN Attribute is obviously at risk. The OB VR is discussed in the Retain Safe Private Option.

  4. This Option specifies what needs to be removed, not what needs to be retained. Depending on the application, it may be desirable to retain some information, such as technique description, but discard other information, such as diagnosis, for example because it may bias the interpretation in a clinical trial. For example, one approach is to remove all description and comment attributes except Series Description (0008,103E), since this Attribute rarely contains identifying or diagnosis information yet is typically a reliable source of useful information about the acquisition technique populated automatically from modality device protocols, though it still could be cleaned as described in Note 2.

  5. It should be recognized that if any descriptor contains information about a particularly unusual procedure or condition, then in conjunction with other demographic information it might reduce the number of possible individuals that could be the imaging subject. However, this is to some extent true also if the condition or other unusual physical features are obvious from visual examination of the images themselves. E.g., how many conjoined twins born in a particular month in Philadelphia might there be?

The manner of cleaning shall be described in the Conformance Statement.

DICOM PS3.15 2017d - Security and System Management Profiles