Low-dose computed tomography of the lumbar spine: a phantom study on imaging parameters and image quality

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Lumbar spine radiography has limited diagnostic value but low radiation dose compared with computed tomography (CT). The average effective radiation dose from lumbar spine radiography is about 1.1 mSv. Low-dose lumbar spine CT may be an alternative to increase the diagnostic value at low radiation dose, around 1 mSv. Purpose: To determine the optimal settings for low-dose lumbar spine CT simultaneously aiming for the highest diagnostic image quality possible. Material and Methods: An ovine lower thoracic and lumbar spine phantom, with all soft tissues around the vertebrae preserved except the skin, was placed in a 20 L plastic container filled with water. The phantom was scanned repeatedly with various technical settings; different tube potential, reference mAs, and with different convolution filters. Five radiologists evaluated the image quality according to a modification of the European guidelines for multislice computed tomography (MSCT) quality criteria for lumbar spine CT 2004. In a visual comparison the different scans were also ranked subjectively according to perceived image quality. Image noise and contrast were measured. Results: A tube potential of 120 kV with reference mAs 30 and medium or medium smooth convolution filter gave the best image quality at a sub-millisievert dose level, i.e. with an effective dose comparable to that from lumbar spine radiography. Conclusion: Low-dose lumbar spine CT thus opens a possibility to substitute lumbar spine radiography with CT without obvious increase in radiation dose.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging


  • CT, conventional radiography, spine, structures, techniques
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)824-832
JournalActa Radiologica
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch

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