The impact on CT dose of the variability in tube current modulation technology: a theoretical investigation.
Body CT scans are routinely performed using tube-current-modulation (TCM) technology. There is notable variability across CT manufacturers in terms of how TCM technology is implemented. Some manufacturers aim to provide uniform image noise across body regions and patient sizes, whereas others aim to provide lower noise for smaller patients. The purpose of this study was to conduct a theoretical investigation to understand how manufacturer-dependent TCM scheme affects organ dose, and to develop a generic approach for assessing organ dose across TCM schemes. The adult reference female extended cardiac-torso (XCAT) phantom was used for this study. A ray-tracing method was developed to calculate the attenuation of the phantom for a given projection angle based on phantom anatomy, CT system geometry, x-ray energy spectrum, and bowtie filter filtration. The tube current (mA) for a given projection angle was then calculated as a log-linear function of the attenuation along that projection. The slope of this function, termed modulation control strength, α, was varied from 0 to 1 to emulate the variability in TCM technology. Using a validated Monte Carlo program, organ dose was simulated for five α values (α = 0, 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, and 1) in the absence and presence of a realistic system mA limit. Organ dose was further normalized by volume-weighted CT dose index (CTDIvol) to obtain conversion factors (h factors) that are relatively independent of system specifics and scan parameters. For both chest and abdomen-pelvis scans and for 24 radiosensitive organs, organ dose conversion factors varied with α, following second-order polynomial equations. This result suggested the need for α-specific organ dose conversion factors (i.e., conversion factors specific to the modulation scheme used). On the other hand, across the full range of α values, organ dose in a TCM scan could be derived from the conversion factors established for a fixed-mA scan (hFIXED). This was possible by multiplying hFIXED by a revised definition of CTDIvol that accounts for two factors: (a) the tube currents at the location of an organ and (b) the variation in organ volume along the longitudinal direction. This α-generic approach represents an approximation. The error associated with this approximation was evaluated using the α-specific organ dose (i.e., the organ dose obtained by using α-specific mA profiles as inputs into the Monte Carlo simulation) as the reference standard. When the mA profiles were constrained by a realistic system limit, this α-generic approach had errors of less than ~20% for the full range of α values. This was the case for 24 radiosensitive organs in both chest and abdomen-pelvis CT scans with the exception of thyroid in the chest scan and bladder in the abdomen-pelvis scan. For these two organs, the errors were less than ~40%. The results of this theoretical study suggested that knowing the mA modulation profile and the fixed-mA conversion factors, organ dose may be estimated for a TCM scan independent of the specific modulation scheme applied.
Li, X; Segars, WP; Samei, E
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