Photon-Counting CT: High-Resolution Imaging of Coronary Stents

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The aim of this study was to investigate computed tomography (CT) imaging characteristics of coronary stents using a novel photon-counting detector (PCD) in comparison with a conventional energy-integrating detector (EID).

Materials and Methods

In this in vitro study, 18 different coronary stents were expanded in plastic tubes of 3 mm diameter, were filled with contrast agent (diluted to an attenuation of 250 Hounsfield units [HU] at 120 kVp), and were sealed. Stents were placed in an oil-filled custom phantom calibrated to an attenuation of −100 HU at 120 kVp for resembling pericardial fat. The phantom was positioned in the gantry at 2 different angles at 0 degree and 90 degrees relative to the z axis, and was imaged in a research dual-source PCD-CT scanner. Detector subsystem “A” used a standard 64-row EID, while detector subsystem “B” used a PCD, allowing high-resolution scanning (detector pixel-size 0.250 × 0.250 mm in the isocenter). Images were obtained from both detector systems at identical tube voltage (100 kVp) and tube current-time product (100 mA), and were both reconstructed using a typical convolution kernel for stent imaging (B46f) and using the same reconstruction parameters. Two independent, blinded readers evaluated in-stent visibility and measured noise, intraluminal stent diameter, and in-stent attenuation for each detector subsystem. Differences in noise, intraluminal stent diameter, and in-stent attenuation where tested using a paired t test; differences in subjective in-stent visibility were evaluated using a Wilcoxon signed-rank test.


Best results for in-stent visibility, noise, intraluminal stent diameter, and in-stent attenuation in EID and PCD were observed at 0-degree phantom position along the z axis, suggesting higher in-plane compared with through-plane resolution. Subjective in-stent visibility was superior in coronary stent images obtained from PCD compared with EID (P < 0.001). Mean in-stent diameter was 28.8% and 8.4% greater in PCD (0.85 ± 0.24 mm; 0.83 ± 0.14 mm) as compared with EID acquisitions (0.66 ± 0.21 mm; 0.76 ± 0.13 mm) for both 0-degree and 90-degree phantom positions, respectively. Average noise was significantly lower (P < 0.001) for PCD (5 ± 0.2 HU) compared with EID (8.3 ± 0.2 HU). The increase in in-stent attenuation (0 degree: Δ 245 ± 163 HU vs Δ 156.5 ± 126 HU; P = 0.006; 90 degrees: Δ 194 ± 141 HU vs Δ 126 ± 78 HU; P = 0.001) was significantly lower for PCD compared with EID acquisitions.


At matched CT scan protocol settings and identical image reconstruction parameters, the PCD yields superior in-stent lumen delineation of coronary artery stents as compared with conventional EID arrays.

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