Rationale and objectives: The aim of our study was to assess the image quality, radiation dose, and clinical applicability of low-dose, volumetric helical CT in the evaluation of bronchiectasis.
Methods: Volumetric helical CT scans (120 kVp, 3-mm collimation, pitch of 2, and reconstruction interval of 2 mm) were obtained through the thorax at four levels of tube current: 150, 100, 70, and 40 mA. There were a total of 12 patients who underwent CT scan either for suspected bronchiectasis or for lung cancer screening, with three patients allocated to each current level. Five radiologists assessed and compared image quality of the helical CT scans obtained at the various exposure levels. Radiation doses of helical CT performed with four different current settings and of high-resolution CT (120 kVp, 170 mA, 1-mm collimation, and 10-mm intervals) were measured. The diagnostic usefulness of the 40-mA helical CT images was compared with that of high-resolution CT by two observers in 52 patients with known or suspected airway diseases.
Results: With helical CT, there was no significant difference in image quality among the four different levels of current (P > 0.05). Radiation doses associated with the 40-, 70-, 100-, and 150-mA helical techniques were 3.21 mGy (range, 3.02-3.57), 4.81 mGy (range, 3.89-5.93), 6.46 mGy (range, 6.01-7.31), and 10.4 mGy (range, 8.93-12.1), respectively, whereas that of high-resolution CT was 2.17 mGy (range, 1.90-2.67). Of 52 patients, 44.5 and 47 patients (the mean of positive interpretations by the five observers) were diagnosed with bronchiectasis at high-resolution and low-dose helical CT, respectively. Of 928 segments, bronchiectasis was seen in 152.5 segments on high-resolution CT and in 193.5 segments on helical CT. The interobserver agreement (k-values) was acceptable for both techniques.
Conclusions: With acceptable images and similar radiation dose, low-dose volumetric helical CT at 40 mA may offer more information than does high-resolution CT in the evaluation of bronchiectasis.