Triple rule-out CT in the emergency department: protocols and spectrum of imaging findings

Thomas Frauenfelder, Philippe Appenzeller, Christoph Karlo, Hans Scheffel, Lotus Desbiolles, Paul Stolzmann, Borut Marincek, Hatem Alkadhi, Thomas Schertler
European Radiology 2009, 19 (4): 789-99
Triage decisions in patients suffering from acute chest pain remain a challenge. The patient's history, initial cardiac enzyme levels, or initial electrocardiograms (ECG) often do not allow selecting the patients in whom further tests are needed. Numerous vascular and non-vascular chest problems, such as pulmonary embolism (PE), aortic dissection, or acute coronary syndrome, as well as pulmonary, pleural, or osseous lesions, must be taken into account. Nowadays, contrast-enhanced multi-detector-row computed tomography (CT) has replaced previous invasive diagnostic procedures and currently represents the imaging modality of choice when the clinical suspicion of PE or acute aortic syndrome is raised. At the same time, CT is capable of detecting a multitude of non-vascular causes of acute chest pain, such as pneumonia, pericarditis, or fractures. Recent technical advances in CT technology have also shown great advantages for non-invasive imaging of the coronary arteries. In patients with acute chest pain, the optimization of triage decisions and cost-effectiveness using cardiac CT in the emergency department have been repetitively demonstrated. Triple rule-out CT denominates an ECG-gated protocol that allows for the depiction of the pulmonary arteries, thoracic aorta, and coronary arteries within a single examination. This can be accomplished through the use of a dedicated contrast media administration regimen resulting in a simultaneous attenuation of the three vessel territories. This review is intended to demonstrate CT parameters and contrast media administration protocols for performing a triple rule-out CT and discusses radiation dose issues pertinent to the protocol. Typical life-threatening and non-life-threatening diseases causing acute chest pain are illustrated.


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