Coronary CT Angiography in Heavily Calcified Coronary Arteries: Improvement of Coronary Lumen Visualization and Coronary Stenosis Assessment With Image Postprocessing Methods

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To compare the diagnostic value of coronary CT angiography (CCTA) with use of 2 image postprocessing methods (CCTA_S) and (CCTA_OS) and original data (CCTA_O) for the assessment of heavily calcified plaques.

Fifty patients (41 men, 9 women; mean age 61.9 years ± 9.1) with suspected coronary artery disease who underwent CCTA and invasive coronary angiography (ICA) examinations were included in the study. Image data were postprocessed with “sharpen” and smooth reconstruction algorithms in comparison with the original data without undergoing any image postprocessing to determine the effects on suppressing blooming artifacts due to heavy calcification in the coronary arteries. Minimal lumen diameter and degree of stenosis were measured and compared between CCTA_S, CCTA_OS, and CCTA_O with ICA as the reference method. The area under the curve (AUC) by receiver-operating characteristic curve analysis (ROC) was also compared among these 3 CCTA techniques.

On a per-vessel assessment, the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value and negative predictive value, and 95% confidence interval (CI) were 100% (95% CI: 89%, 100%), 33% (95% CI: 22%, 45%), 41% (95% CI: 30%, 53%), 100% (95% CI: 85%, 100%) for CCTA_O, 94% (95% CI: 79%, 99%), 66% (95% CI: 54%, 77%), 57% (95% CI: 43%, 70%), and 95% (95% CI: 85%, 99%) for CCTA_S, 94% (95% CI: 79%, 99%), 44% (95% CI: 32%, 57%), 44% (95% CI: 32%, 57%), and 97% (95% CI: 79%, 99%) for CCTA_OS, respectively. The AUC by ROC curve analysis for CCTA_S showed significant improvement for detection of >50% coronary stenosis in left anterior descending coronary artery compared to that of CCTA_OS and CCTA_O methods (P < 0.05), with no significance differences for detection of coronary stenosis in the left circumflex and right coronary arteries (P > 0.05).

CCTA with “sharpen” reconstruction reduces blooming artifacts from heavy calcification, thus, leading to significant improvement of specificity and positive predictive value of CCTA in patients with heavily calcified plaques. However, specificity is still moderate and additional functional imaging may be needed.

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