Image quality of conventional images of dual-layer SPECTRAL CT: A phantom study

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Abstract

Purpose

Spectral CT using a dual layer detector offers the possibility of retrospectively introducing spectral information to conventional CT images. In theory, the dual-layer technology should not come with a dose or image quality penalty for conventional images. In this study, we evaluate the influence of a dual-layer detector (IQon Spectral CT, Philips Healthcare) on the image quality of conventional CT images, by comparing these images with those of a conventional but otherwise technically comparable single-layer CT scanner (Brilliance iCT, Philips Healthcare), by means of phantom experiments.

Methods

For both CT scanners, conventional CT images were acquired using four adult scanning protocols: (a) body helical, (b) body axial, (c) head helical, and (d) head axial. A CATPHAN 600 phantom was scanned to conduct an assessment of image quality metrics at equivalent (CTDI) dose levels. Noise was characterized by means of noise power spectra (NPS) and standard deviation (SD) of a uniform region, and spatial resolution was evaluated with modulation transfer functions (MTF) of a tungsten wire. In addition, contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR), image uniformity, CT number linearity, slice thickness, slice spacing, and spatial linearity were measured and evaluated. Additional measurements of CNR, resolution and noise were performed in two larger phantoms.

Results

The resolution levels at 50%, 10%, and 5% MTF of the iCT and IQon showed small, but significant differences up to 0.25 lp/cm for body scans, and up to 0.2 lp/cm for head scans in favor of the IQon. The iCT and IQon showed perfect CT linearity for body scans, but for head scans both scanners showed an underestimation of the CT numbers of materials with a high opacity. Slice thickness was slightly overestimated for both scanners. Slice spacing was comparable and reconstructed correctly. In addition, spatial linearity was excellent for both scanners, with a maximum error of 0.11 mm. CNR was higher on the IQon compared to the iCT for both normal and larger phantoms with differences up to 0.51. Spatial resolution did not change with phantom size, but noise levels increased significantly. For head scans, IQon had a noise level that was significantly lower than the iCT, on the other hand IQon showed noise levels significantly higher than the iCT for body scans. Still, these differences were well within the specified range of performance of iCT scanners.

Conclusions

At equivalent dose levels, this study showed similar quality of conventional images acquired on iCT and IQon for medium-sized phantoms and slightly degraded image quality for (very) large phantoms at lower tube voltages on the IQon. Accordingly, it may be concluded that the introduction of a dual-layer detector neither compromises image quality of conventional images nor increases radiation dose for normal-sized patients, and slightly degrades dose efficiency for large patients at 120 kVp and lower tube voltages.

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