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Ultralow-Dose Dynamic Expiratory CT and Repeated Imaging Enhance Evaluation for Tracheomalacia.

OBJECTIVE: This study aims to determine if a novel imaging protocol (ultralow-dose dynamic expiratory computed tomography [CT] with repeated imaging) identifies tracheomalacia (TM) more reliably than traditional dynamic tracheal CT.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective evaluation of 184 consecutive ultralow-dose dynamic CTs for TM during 2017. The protocol obtains images during 1 inspiration and 2 forced expirations. Tracheal narrowing during both expirations (airway narrowing [percentage] during first dynamic expiration CT [DE1], airway narrowing [percentage] during second dynamic expiration CT [DE2]) was reported as a percentage of inspiratory area. We identified maximum narrowing of each patient's sequence (maximum narrowing [percentage] on either dynamic expiration CT [DEmax] = greatest narrowing of DE1 or DE2) and compared DE1, DE2, and DEmax in individual studies and between patients. Outcomes included frequency of TM, tracheal narrowing, and severity. Reliability was assessed by comparing tracheal area narrowing and TM grade.

RESULTS: There was significantly more airway narrowing using 2 expiratory image acquisitions. Average DEmax tracheal area was 12% narrower than DE1 alone and 21% worse than DE2 alone (both P < 0.001). Using DEmax, TM was diagnosed 35% more often than DE1 alone and 31% more often than DE2 alone ( P < 0.001). DEmax identified more severe distribution of TM compared with DE1 or DE2 alone ( P < 0.001). Reliability between DE1 and DE2 was good for tracheal narrowing and moderate for TM grade. The mean effective radiation dose was 2.41 millisievert (mSv) for routine inspiration CT and 0.07 mSv for each dynamic expiration CT (total effective radiation, 2.55 mSv).

CONCLUSIONS: Dynamic expiration CT with 2 expiratory image acquisitions enhanced evaluation of TM, minimally increased radiation dose, and should be considered as a noninvasive screening option.

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