Noise-optimized monoenergetic post-processing improves visualization of incidental pulmonary embolism in cancer patients undergoing single-pass dual-energy computed tomography.

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Abstract

PURPOSE

To evaluate noise-optimized monoenergetic postprocessing of dual-energy CT (DE-CT) on image quality in patients with incidental pulmonary embolism in single-pass portal-venous phase CT (CTpv).

MATERIALS AND METHODS

20 Consecutive patients with incidental pulmonary embolism in contrast-enhanced oncological follow-up DE-CTpv examination were included in this study. Images were acquired with a 3rd generation DE-CT system in DE mode (100/Sn150 kV) and activated tube current modulation 90 s after contrast agent administration. Subsequently, virtual monoenergetic images (MEI+) were reconstructed at five different keV levels (40, 55, 70, 85, 100) and compared to the standard linearly blended (M_0.8) CTpv images. Image quality was assessed qualitatively (vascular contrast and detectability of embolism, image noise, iodine influx artifact; two independent readers; 5-point Likert scale; 5 = excellent) and quantitatively by calculating signal-to-noise (SNR) and contrast-to-noise ratios (CNR).

RESULTS

Highest vessel contrast and highest detectability of embolism were observed in MEI+ at 40 keV (4.7 ± 0.4) and 55 keV (4.2 ± 0.6) with significant differences as compared to CTpv (3.6 ± 0.5) and high keV reconstructions (70, 85, 100; p ≤ 0.01). Image noise significantly increased at 40 keV MEI+ compared to all other MEI+ reconstructions and CTpv (p < 0.001). SNR and CNR calculations were highest at 40 keV MEI+ followed by 55 keV and CTpv with significant differences to high keV MEI+ (85-100).

CONCLUSIONS

Computed MEI+ at low keV levels allow for improved vessel contrast and visualisation of incidental pulmonary embolism in patients with portal-venous phase CT scans by substantially increasing CNR and SNR.

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