MITK-OpenIGTLink for combining open-source toolkits in real-time computer-assisted interventions

  • Martin Klemm
  • Thomas Kirchner
  • Janek Gröhl
  • Dominique Cheray
  • Marco Nolden
  • Alexander Seitel
  • Harald Hoppe
  • Lena Maier-Hein
  • Alfred M. Franz
Original Article



Due to rapid developments in the research areas of medical imaging, medical image processing and robotics, computer-assisted interventions (CAI) are becoming an integral part of modern patient care. From a software engineering point of view, these systems are highly complex and research can benefit greatly from reusing software components. This is supported by a number of open-source toolkits for medical imaging and CAI such as the medical imaging interaction toolkit (MITK), the public software library for ultrasound imaging research (PLUS) and 3D Slicer. An independent inter-toolkit communication such as the open image-guided therapy link (OpenIGTLink) can be used to combine the advantages of these toolkits and enable an easier realization of a clinical CAI workflow.


MITK-OpenIGTLink is presented as a network interface within MITK that allows easy to use, asynchronous two-way messaging between MITK and clinical devices or other toolkits. Performance and interoperability tests with MITK-OpenIGTLink were carried out considering the whole CAI workflow from data acquisition over processing to visualization.


We present how MITK-OpenIGTLink can be applied in different usage scenarios. In performance tests, tracking data were transmitted with a frame rate of up to 1000 Hz and a latency of 2.81 ms. Transmission of images with typical ultrasound (US) and greyscale high-definition (HD) resolutions of \(640\times 480\) and \(1920\times 1080\) is possible at up to 512 and 128 Hz, respectively.


With the integration of OpenIGTLink into MITK, this protocol is now supported by all established open-source toolkits in the field. This eases interoperability between MITK and toolkits such as PLUS or 3D Slicer and facilitates cross-toolkit research collaborations. MITK and its submodule MITK-OpenIGTLink are provided open source under a BSD-style licence (


Computer-assisted interventions Image-guided therapy Ultrasound Interoperability OpenIGTLink MITK 



The authors would like to acknowledge support from the European Union through the ERC starting Grant COMBIOSCOPY under the New Horizon Framework Programme Grant Agreement ERC-2015-StG-37960.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no known conflicts of interest associated with this publication.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

This articles does not contain patient data.


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Copyright information

© CARS 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory for Computer-Assisted Medicine, Department of Electrical Engineering and Information TechnologyOffenburg UniversityOffenburgGermany
  2. 2.German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)HeidelbergGermany

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