Virtual Noncontrast Abdominal Imaging with Photon-counting Detector CT

Radiology. 2022 Oct;305(1):107-115. doi: 10.1148/radiol.213260. Epub 2022 Jun 7.


Background Accurate CT attenuation and diagnostic quality of virtual noncontrast (VNC) images acquired with photon-counting detector (PCD) CT are needed to replace true noncontrast (TNC) scans. Purpose To assess the attenuation errors and image quality of VNC images from abdominal PCD CT compared with TNC images. Materials and Methods In this retrospective study, consecutive adult patients who underwent a triphasic examination with PCD CT from July 2021 to October 2021 were included. VNC images were reconstructed from arterial and portal venous phase CT. The absolute attenuation error of VNC compared with TNC images was measured in multiple structures by two readers. Then, two readers blinded to image reconstruction assessed the overall image quality, image noise, noise texture, and delineation of small structures using five-point discrete visual scales (5 = excellent, 1 = nondiagnostic). Overall image quality greater than or equal to 3 was deemed diagnostic. In a phantom, noise texture, spatial resolution, and detectability index were assessed. A detectability index greater than or equal to 5 indicated high diagnostic accuracy. Interreader agreement was evaluated using the Krippendorff α coefficient. The paired t test and Friedman test were applied to compare objective and subjective results. Results Overall, 100 patients (mean age, 72 years ± 10 [SD]; 81 men) were included. In patients, VNC image attenuation values were consistent between readers (α = .60), with errors less than 5 HU in 76% and less than 10 HU in 95% of measurements. There was no evidence of a difference in error of VNC images from arterial or portal venous phase CT (3.3 HU vs 3.5 HU, P = .16). Subjective image quality was rated lower in VNC images for all categories (all, P < .001). Diagnostic quality of VNC images was reached in 99% and 100% of patients for readers 1 and 2, respectively. In the phantom, VNC images exhibited 33% higher noise, blotchier noise texture, similar spatial resolution, and inferior but overall good image quality (detectability index >20) compared with TNC images. Conclusion Abdominal virtual noncontrast images from the arterial and portal venous phase of photon-counting detector CT yielded accurate CT attenuation and good image quality compared with true noncontrast images. © RSNA, 2022 Online supplemental material is available for this article See also the editorial by Sosna in this issue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / diagnostic imaging
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Radiography, Dual-Energy Scanned Projection* / methods
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods