BACKGROUND: Follow-up with computed tomographic angiography is recommended after endovascular aneurysm repair, exposing patients to significant levels of radiation and iodine contrast medium. Dual-energy computed tomography allows virtual noncontrast (VNC) images to be reconstructed from contrast-enhanced images using a software algorithm. If the VNC images are a good-enough approximation of true noncontrast (TNC) images, a reduction in radiation dose can be ensured through omitting a TNC scan. PURPOSE: To compare image quality of VNC images reconstructed from arterial phase and venous phase dual-energy computed tomographic angiography to TNC images and to assess which one is more suitable to replace TNC images. METHODS: Sixty-three consecutive patients were examined using a dual-energy computed tomography as elective follow-up after endovascular aneurysm repair. The examination protocol included 1 unenhanced and 2 contrast-enhanced scans (80 kV/Sn140 kV) of the aorta. Virtual noncontrast data sets were reconstructed from the arterial (A-VNC) and venous (V-VNC) phase scans, respectively. Mean attenuation and image noise were measured for TNC, A-VNC, and V-VNC images within regions of interest at 2 levels in the aorta, the liver, retroperitoneal fat, and psoas muscle. Subjective image quality was assessed on a 4-point scale by 2 blinded readers. RESULTS: The differences between A-VNC and TNC, and between A-VNC and V-VNC, were substantial aorta at the level of diaphragm and aorta at the level of renal arteries. The difference between V-VNC and TNC was, on the other hand, very small and not statistically significant for the renal artery aorta. For liver, fat, and muscle tissue, there were significant differences between both A-VNC and V-VNC compared with TNC, but findings were similar between A-VNC and V-VNC. CONCLUSIONS: Virtual noncontrast images based on venous-phase scans appear to be a more accurate representation of TNC scans than VNC images based on arterial-phase scans.
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