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Electron density dual-energy CT can improve the detection of lumbar disc herniation with higher image quality than standard and virtual non-calcium images.

European Radiology 2024 May 17
OBJECTIVES: To compare the diagnostic performance and image quality of dual-energy computed tomography (DECT) with electron density (ED) image reconstruction with those of DECT with standard CT (SC) and virtual non-calcium (VNCa) image reconstructions, for diagnosing lumbar disc herniation (L-HIVD).

METHODS: A total of 59 patients (354 intervertebral discs from T12/L1 to L5/S1; mean age, 60 years; 30 women and 29 men) who underwent DECT with spectral reconstruction and 3-T MRI within 2 weeks were enrolled between March 2021 and February 2022. Four radiologists independently assessed three image sets of randomized ED, SC, and VNCa images to detect L-HIVD at 8-week intervals. The coefficient of variance (CV) and the Weber contrast of the ROIs in the normal and diseased disc to cerebrospinal fluid space (NCR-normal/-diseased, respectively) were calculated to compare the image qualities of the noiseless ED and other series.

RESULTS: Overall, 129 L-HIVDs were noted on MRI. In the detection of L-HIVD, ED showed a higher AUC and sensitivity than SC and VNCa; 0.871 vs 0.807 vs 833 (p = 0.002) and 81% vs 70% vs 74% (p = 0.006 for SC), respectively. CV was much lower in all measurements of ED than those for SC and VNCa (p < 0.001). Furthermore, NCR-normal and NCR-diseased were the highest in ED (ED vs SC in NCR-normal and NCR-diseased, p =  0.001 and p = 0.004, respectively; ED vs VNCa in NCR-diseased, p = 0.044).

CONCLUSION: Compared to SC and VNCa images, DECT with ED reconstruction can enhance the AUC and sensitivity of L-HIVD detection with a lower CV and higher NCR.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE STATEMENT: To our knowledge, this is the first study to quantify the image quality of noiseless ED images. ED imaging may be helpful for detecting L-HIVD in patients who cannot undergo MRI.

KEY POINTS: ED images have diagnostic potential, but relevant quantitative analyses of image quality are limited. ED images detect disc herniation, with a better coefficient of variance and normalized contrast ratio values. ED images could detect L-HIVD when MRI is not an option.

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