Objectives: The aim of this study was to compare image quality and extent of artifacts from scaphoid fracture fixation screws using different computed tomography (CT) modalities and radiation dose protocols.
Materials and methods: Imaging of 6 cadaveric wrists with artificial scaphoid fractures and different fixation screws was performed in 2 screw positions (45° and 90° orientation in relation to the x/y-axis) using multidetector CT (MDCT) and 2 flat-panel CT modalities, C-arm flat-panel CT (FPCT) and cone-beam CT (CBCT), the latter 2 with low and standard radiation dose protocols. Mean cartilage attenuation and metal artifact-induced absolute Hounsfield unit changes (= artifact extent) were measured. Two independent radiologists evaluated different image quality criteria using a 5-point Likert-scale. Interreader agreements (Cohen κ) were calculated. Mean absolute Hounsfield unit changes and quality ratings were compared using Friedman and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests.
Results: Artifact extent was significantly smaller for MDCT and standard-dose FPCT compared with CBCT low- and standard-dose acquisitions (all P < 0.05). No significant differences in artifact extent among different screw types and scanning positions were noted (P > 0.05). Both MDCT and FPCT standard-dose protocols showed equal ratings for screw bone interface, fracture line, and trabecular bone evaluation (P = 0.06, 0.2, and 0.2, respectively) and performed significantly better than FPCT low- and CBCT low- and standard-dose acquisitions (all P < 0.05). Good interreader agreement was found for image quality comparisons (Cohen κ = 0.76-0.78).
Conclusions: Both MDCT and FPCT standard-dose acquisition showed comparatively less metal-induced artifacts and better overall image quality compared with FPCT low-dose and both CBCT acquisitions. Flat-panel CT may provide sufficient image quality to serve as a versatile CT alternative for postoperative imaging of internally fixated wrist fractures.