Observer Performance with Varying Radiation Dose and Reconstruction Methods for Detection of Hepatic Metastases

Radiology. 2018 Nov;289(2):455-464. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2018180125. Epub 2018 Sep 11.


Purpose To estimate the ability of lower dose levels and iterative reconstruction (IR) to display hepatic metastases that can be detected by radiologists. Materials and Methods Projection data from 83 contrast agent-enhanced CT examinations were collected. Metastases were defined by histopathologic analysis or progression and regression. Lower radiation dose configurations were reconstructed at five dose levels with filtered back projection (FBP) and IR (automatic exposure control settings: 80, 100, 120, 160, and 200 quality reference mAs [QRM]). Three abdominal radiologists circumscribed metastases, indicating confidence (confidence range, 0-100) and image quality. Noninferiority was assessed by using jackknife alternative free-response receiver operating characteristic (JAFROC) analysis (noninferiority limit, -0.10) and reader agreement rules, which required identification of metastases identified at routine dose, and no nonlesion localizations in patients negative for metastases, in 71 or more patient CT examinations (of 83), for each configuration. Results There were 123 hepatic metastases (mean size, 1.4 cm; median volume CT dose index and size-specific dose estimate, 11.0 and 13.4 mGy, respectively). By using JAFROC figure of merit, 100 QRM FBP did not meet noninferiority criteria and had estimated performance difference from routine dose of -0.08 (95% confidence interval: -0.11, -0.04). Preset reader agreement rules were not met for 100 QRM IR or 80 QRM IR, but were met for doses 120 QRM or higher (ie, size-specific dose estimate ≥ 8.0 mGy). IR improved image quality (P < .05) but not reader performance. Other than 160 QRM IR, lower dose levels were associated with reduced confidence in metastasis detection (P < .001). Conclusion For detection of hepatic metastases by using contrast-enhanced CT, dose levels that corresponded to 120 quality reference mAs (size-specific dose estimate, 8.0 mGy) and higher performed similarly to 200 quality reference mAs with filtered back projection. © RSNA, 2018 Online supplemental material is available for this article.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Contrast Media
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Radiation Dosage*
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement / methods
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*


  • Contrast Media