Human Imaging With Photon Counting–Based Computed Tomography at Clinical Dose Levels: Contrast-to-Noise Ratio and Cadaver Studies

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ObjectivesThe purpose of this work was to measure and compare the iodine contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) between a commercial energy-integrating detector (EID) computed tomography (CT) system and a photon-counting detector (PCD) CT scanner capable of human imaging at clinical dose rates, as well as to determine clinical feasibility using human cadavers.Materials and MethodsA research dual-source PCD-CT scanner was used, where the “A” tube/detector subsystem used an EID and the “B” tube/detector subsystem used a PCD. Iodine CNR was measured in 4 anthropomorphic phantoms, simulating 4 patient sizes, at 4 tube potential settings. After biospecimen committee approval, PCD scans were performed on a fresh-frozen human head and a whole-body cadaver using clinical dose rates. Scans were repeated using the EID and identical parameters, and qualitative side-by-side comparisons were performed.ResultsFor the same photon fluence, phantom measurements demonstrated a mean increase in CNR of 11%, 23%, 31%, 38% for the PCD system, relative to the EID system, at 80, 100, 120, and 140 kV, respectively. Photon-counting detector CT additionally provided energy-selective imaging, where low- and high-energy images reflected the energy dependence of the iodine signal. Photon-counting detector images of cadaveric anatomy demonstrated decreased beam hardening and calcium blooming in the high-energy bin images and increased contrast in the low-energy bins images relative to the EID images. Threshold-based PCD images were qualitatively deemed equivalent in other aspects.ConclusionsThe evaluated research PCD-CT system was capable of clinical levels of image quality at clinical dose rates. It further provided improved CNR relative to state-of-the-art EID-CT. The energy-selective bin images provide further opportunity for dual-energy and multienergy analyses.

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