Radiation dose reduction in chest dual-energy computed tomography: effect on image quality and diagnostic information

Abstract Objective: To determine whether dual-energy computed tomography (DECT) of the chest can be performed at a reduced radiation dose, with an emphasis on images generated with post-processing techniques. Materials and Methods: In 21 patients undergoing DECT of the chest in a dual-source scanner, an additional image series was acquired at a reduced radiation dose. Four thoracic radiologists assessed both image series for image quality, normal thoracic structures, as well as pulmonary and mediastinal abnormalities, on virtual monochromatic images at 40 keV and 60 keV. Data were analyzed with Student's t-test, kappa statistics, analysis of variance, and the Wilcoxon signed-rank test. Results: The overall image quality of 60 keV virtual monochromatic images at a reduced radiation dose was considered optimal in all patients, and no abnormalities were missed. Contrast enhancement and lesion detection performance were comparable between reduced-dose images at 40 keV and standard-of-care images at 60 keV. The intraobserver and interobserver agreement were both good. The mean volumetric CT dose index (CTDIvol), size-specific dose estimate (SSDE), dose-length product (DLP), and effective dose (ED) for reduced-dose DECT were 3.0 ± 0.6 mGy, 4.0 ± 0.6 mGy, 107 ± 30 mGy.cm, and 1.5 ± 0.4 mSv, respectively. Conclusion: DECT of the chest can be performed at a reduced radiation dose (CTDIvol < 3 mGy) without loss of diagnostic information.