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This study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of automatic exposure control (AEC) in order to optimize low-dose computed tomography (CT) protocols for patients of different ages undergoing cardiac PET/CT and single-photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography (SPECT/CT).One PET/CT and one SPECT/CT were used to acquire CT images for four anthropomorphic phantoms representative of 1-year-old, 5-year-old and 10-year-old children and an adult. For the hybrid systems investigated in this study, the radiation dose and image quality of cardiac CT scans performed with AEC activated depend mainly on the selection of a predefined image quality index. Multiple linear regression methods were used to analyse image data from anthropomorphic phantom studies to investigate the effects of body size and predefined image quality index on CT radiation dose in cardiac PET/CT and SPECT/CT scans.The regression relationships have a coefficient of determination larger than 0.9, indicating a good fit to the data. According to the regression models, low-dose protocols using the AEC technique were optimized for patients of different ages. In comparison with the standard protocol with AEC activated for adult cardiac examinations used in our clinical routine practice, the optimized paediatric protocols in PET/CT allow 32.2, 63.7 and 79.2% CT dose reductions for anthropomorphic phantoms simulating 10-year-old, 5-year-old and 1-year-old children, respectively. The corresponding results for cardiac SPECT/CT are 8.4, 51.5 and 72.7%.AEC is a practical way to reduce CT radiation dose in cardiac PET/CT and SPECT/CT, but the AEC settings should be determined properly for optimal effect. Our results show that AEC does not eliminate the need for paediatric protocols and CT examinations using the AEC technique should be optimized for paediatric patients to reduce the radiation dose as low as reasonably achievable.