CT of the chest: minimal tube current required for good image quality with the least radiation dose

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1995 Mar;164(3):603-7. doi: 10.2214/ajr.164.3.7863879.


Objective: We wanted to determine minimal tube current (mAs) required for consistently good image quality on conventional 10-mm collimation chest CT and effect of tube current reduction on detection of mediastinal and lung abnormalities. Tube current reduction is desirable to reduce patient radiation dose.

Subjects and methods: Prospectively, 30 consecutive patients (mean weight, 68 kg; range, 34-93 kg) older than 45 undergoing conventional chest CT with standard technique (120 kVp, 400 mAs) had four additional sections imaged at reduced tube current (200, 140, 80, 20 mAs) at two levels (tracheal carina and left atrium). CT scans were evaluated in random order by two independent observers who were blinded to technical factors used. Subjective image quality was graded on a five-point scale from non-diagnostic to excellent. Visualization of mediastinal adenopathy (n = 18), pleural plaques (n = 17), effusions (n = 28), lung parenchymal nodules (n = 37), and emphysema (n = 15) were assessed. The 400 mAs scan was considered the reference standard.

Results: When compared with the reference technique (400 mAs), the first and second (200 mAs and 140 mAs) reduction levels showed no significant difference (p > .05) in subjective image quality. A significant difference (p < .001) was seen at the third and fourth (80 mAs and 20 mAs) reduction levels. However, no significant difference (p > .05) was seen in detection of mediastinal or lung parenchymal abnormalities with different tube currents.

Conclusion: A twofold reduction in tube current (400-140 mAs) and resultant radiation dose did not cause a significant change in subjective image quality or in detection of mediastinal or lung abnormalities with conventional chest CT. One hundred forty milliampere-seconds is the minimal tube current required to provide good image quality in patients of average weight.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Mediastinum / diagnostic imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiography, Thoracic / methods*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*