Objective: To evaluate the imaging quality of head CT at lowered radiation dose by combining filtered back projection (FBP) and iterative reconstruction (IR) algorithms.
Methods: Experimental group A (n = 66) underwent CT with 43 % tube current reduction, and group B (n = 58) received an equivalent reduced dose by lowering the tube voltage. An age- and sex-matched control group (n = 72) receiving the conventional radiation dose was retrospectively collected. Imaging for the control group was reconstructed by FBP only, while images for groups A and B were reconstructed by FBP and IR. The signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs), contrast-to-noise ratios (CNRs), sharpness, number of infarcts and severity of subcortical arteriosclerotic encephalopathy (SAE) were compared to assess imaging quality and diagnostic accuracy.
Results: There were no significant differences in SNRs and CNRs between group A and the control group. There were significantly decreased SNRs and increased CNRs in group B. Image sharpness decreased in both groups. Correlations between detected infarcts and severity of SAE across FBP and IR were high (r = 0.73-0.93). Head diameter was the only significant factor inversely correlated with infratentorial imaging quality.
Conclusion: Head CT with 43 % reduced tube current reconstructed by IR provides diagnostic imaging quality for outpatient management.
Key points: • Cranial CT using iterative reconstruction provides diagnostic images with 43 % mAs reduction. • Blurring of infratentorial images becomes evident using low-radiation head CT. • Head diameter was inversely correlated with imaging quality in the infratentorium. • Lowering tube kilovoltage requires a higher radiation dose to maintain image quality.