Dual energy CT in clinical routine: how it works and how it adds value

Emerg Radiol. 2021 Feb;28(1):103-117. doi: 10.1007/s10140-020-01785-2. Epub 2020 Jun 1.


Dual energy computed tomography (DECT), also known as spectral CT, refers to advanced CT technology that separately acquires high and low energy X-ray data to enable material characterization applications for substances that exhibit different energy-dependent x-ray absorption behavior. DECT supports a variety of post-processing applications that add value in routine clinical CT imaging, including material selective and virtual non-contrast images using two- and three-material decomposition algorithms, virtual monoenergetic imaging, and other material characterization techniques. Following a review of acquisition and post-processing techniques, we present a case-based approach to highlight the added value of DECT in common clinical scenarios. These scenarios include improved lesion detection, improved lesion characterization, improved ease of interpretation, improved prognostication, inherently more robust imaging protocols to account for unexpected pathology or suboptimal contrast opacification, length of stay reduction, reduced utilization by avoiding unnecessary follow-up examinations, and radiation dose reduction. A brief discussion of post-processing workflow approaches, challenges, and solutions is also included.

Keywords: Added value; Computed tomography; Dual energy CT; Spectral CT; Workflow.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Contrast Media
  • Humans
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Radiography, Dual-Energy Scanned Projection / methods*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*


  • Contrast Media