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The volume of data from medical imaging is growing at exponential rates, matching or exceeding the decline in the costs of digital data storage. While methods to reversibly compress image data do exist, current methods only achieve modest reductions in storage requirements. Irreversible compression can achieve substantially higher compression ratios without perceptible image degradation. These techniques are routinely applied in teleradiology, and often in Picture Archiving and Communications Systems. The practicing radiologist needs to understand how these compression techniques work and the nature of the degradation that occurs in order to optimize their medical practice. This paper describes the technology and artifacts commonly used in irreversible compression of medical images.