Expanding the Concept of Diagnostic Reference Levels to Noise and Dose Reference Levels in CT.
OBJECTIVE. Diagnostic reference levels were developed as guidance for radiation dose in medical imaging and, by inference, diagnostic quality. The objective of this work was to expand the concept of diagnostic reference levels to explicitly include noise of CT examinations to simultaneously target both dose and quality through corresponding reference values. MATERIALS AND METHODS. The study consisted of 2851 adult CT examinations performed with scanners from two manufacturers and two clinical protocols: abdominopelvic CT with IV contrast administration and chest CT without IV contrast administration. An institutional informatics system was used to automatically extract protocol type, patient diameter, volume CT dose index, and noise magnitude from images. The data were divided into five reference patient size ranges. Noise reference level, noise reference range, dose reference level, and dose reference range were defined for each size range. RESULTS. The data exhibited strong dependence between dose and patient size, weak dependence between noise and patient size, and different trends for different manufacturers with differing strategies for tube current modulation. The results suggest size-based reference intervals and levels for noise and dose (e.g., noise reference level and noise reference range of 11.5-12.9 HU and 11.0-14.0 HU for chest CT and 10.1-12.1 HU and 9.4-13.7 HU for abdominopelvic CT examinations) that can be targeted to improve clinical performance consistency. CONCLUSION. New reference levels and ranges, which simultaneously consider image noise and radiation dose information across wide patient populations, were defined and determined for two clinical protocols. The methods of new quantitative constraints may provide unique and useful information about the goal of managing the variability of image quality and dose in clinical CT examinations.
Ria, F; Davis, JT; Solomon, JB; Wilson, JM; Smith, TB; Frush, DP; Samei, E
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