Low-dose ECG-gated 64-slices helical CT angiography of the chest: evaluation of image quality in 105 patients

A G d'Agostino, M Remy-Jardin, C Khalil, V Delannoy-Deken, T Flohr, A Duhamel, J Remy
European Radiology 2006, 16 (10): 2137-46
The purpose of this study was to evaluate image quality of low-dose electrocardiogram (ECG)-gated multislice helical computed tomography (CT) angiograms of the chest. One hundred and five consecutive patients with a regular sinus rhythm (72 men; 33 women) underwent ECG-gated CT angiographic examination of the chest without administration of beta blockers using the following parameters: (a) collimation 32 x 0.6 mm with z-flying focal spot for the acquisition of 64 overlapping 0.6-mm slices, rotation time 0.33 s, pitch 0.3; (b) 120 kV, 200 mAs; (c) use of two dose modulation systems, including adjustment of the mAs setting to the patient's size and anatomical shape and an ECG-controlled tube current. Subjective and objective image quality was evaluated by two radiologists in consensus on 3-mm-thick scans reconstructed at 55% of the response rate (RR) interval. The population and protocol characteristics included: (a) a mean [+/-standard deviation (SD)] body mass index (BMI) of 24.47 (+/-4.64); (b) a mean (+/-SD) heart rate of 72.04 (+/-15.76) bpm; (c) a mean (+/-SD) scanning time of 18.3 (+/-2.73) s; (d) a mean (+/-SD) dose-length product (DLP) value of 260.57 (+/-83.67) mGy/cm; (e) an estimated average effective dose of 4.95 (+/-1.59) mSv. Subjective noise was depicted in a total of nine examinations (8.5%), always rated as mild. Objective noise was assessed by measuring the standard deviation of pixel values in a homogeneous region of interest within the trachea and descending aorta; SD was 15.91 HU in the trachea and 22.16 HU in the descending aorta, with no significant difference in the mean value of the standard deviations between the four categories of BMI except for obese patients, who had a higher mean SD within the aorta. Interpolation artefacts were depicted in 22 patients, with a mean heart rate significantly lower than that of patients without interpolation artifacts, rated as mild in 11 patients and severe in 11 patients. The severity of interpolation artefacts was significantly linked to a low heart rate in affected patients. The overall image quality of CT scans was rated as diagnostic in 94 patients (89.5%) while 11 examinations (10.5%) were found to be partially nondiagnostic owing to the cyclic presence of severe interpolation artefacts, which can be compensated for by additional reconstructions at a different temporal window. In these cases, interpolation artefacts could have been avoided by reducing the pitch from 0.3 to 0.2 at the expense of increased patient dose. Low-dose ECG-gated CT angiograms of the chest can be obtained in routine clinical practice with 64-slice CT technology without altering the diagnostic value of CT scans.

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