Screening for interstitial lung disease in systemic sclerosis: performance of high-resolution CT with limited number of slices: a prospective study

Thomas Frauenfelder, Anna Winklehner, Thi Dan Linh Nguyen, Rucsandra Dobrota, Stephan Baumueller, Britta Maurer, Oliver Distler
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2014, 73 (12): 2069-73

OBJECTIVES: Early diagnosis of interstitial lung disease (ILD), currently the main cause of death in systemic sclerosis (SSc), is needed. The gold standard is high-resolution CT (HRCT) of the chest, but regular screening faces the risk of increased radiation exposure. We performed a prospective validation of a dedicated, 9-slice HRCT protocol with reduced radiation dose for the detection of ILD in patients with SSc.

METHODS: We analysed 170/205 consecutive patients with SSc. Whole-chest HRCT, serving as standard of reference, and the reduced HRCT with nine slices allocated according to a basal-apical gradient were obtained. ILD presence, extent (> or <20%) and diagnostic confidence were assessed. The reduced HRCT was independently analysed by two blinded radiologists, who also evaluated image quality. Radiation dose parameters were calculated.

RESULTS: Standard chest HRCT showed ILD in 77/170 patients. With the reduced HRCT, 68/77 cases with ILD were identified (sensitivity 88.3%, both readers). The accuracy (91.8%, reader 1; 94.7%, reader 2), diagnostic confidence (98.8%, reader 1; 95.3%, reader 2) and image quality rates were high. Minimal ILD was correctly quantified in 73.1% (reader 1)/71.2% (reader 2) and extensive ILD in 88% (reader 1)/100% (reader 2). Importantly, the reduced HRCT had a significantly lower radiation dose. The mean dose length product (effective dose) was only 5.66±4.46 mGycm (0.08±0.06 mSv) compared with the standard protocol dose of 149.00±95.90 mGycm (2.09±1.34 mSv).

CONCLUSIONS: The above-described reduced chest HRCT protocol reliably detects even mild SSc-ILD in clinical practice, with the advantage of a much lower radiation dose compared with standard whole-chest HRCT.

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