Assessment of visually lossless irreversible image compression: Comparison of three methods by using an image-comparison workstation

Richard M. Slone, David H. Foos, Bruce R. Whiting, Edward Muka, David A. Rubin, Thomas K. Pilgram, Kevin S. Kohm, Susan S. Young, Paul Ho, Dan D. Hendrickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To determine the degree of irreversible image compression detectable in conservative viewing conditions. MATERIALS AND METHODS: An image-comparison workstation, which alternately displayed two registered an magnified versions of an image, was used to study observer detection of image degradation introduced by irreversible compression. Five observers evaluated 20 16-bit posteroanterior digital chest radiographs compressed with Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) or wavelet-based trellis-coded quantization (WTCQ) algorithms at compression ratios of 8:1-128:1 and x2 magnification by using (a) tradition two-alternative forced choice; (b) original-revealed two- alternative forced choice, in which the noncompressed image is identified to the observer; and (c) a resolution-metric method of matching test images to degraded reference images. RESULTS: The visually lossless threshold was between 8:1 and 16:1 for four observers. JPEG compression resulted in performance as good as that with WTCQ compression at these ratios. The original-revealed forced-choice method was faster and as sensitive as the two-alternative forced-choice method. The resolution-metric results were robust and provided information on performance above visually lossless levels. CONCLUSION: The image-comparison workstation is a versatile tool for comparative assessment of image quality. At x2 magnification, images compressed with either JPEG or WTCQ algorithms were indistinguishable from unaltered original images for most observers at compression ratios between 8:1 and 16:1, indicating that 10:1 compression is acceptable for primary image interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-553
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000


  • Computers, diagnostic aid
  • Data compression
  • Images, artifact
  • Images, display
  • Images, processing
  • Picture archiving and communication system (PACS)


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