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Keywords:

  • CT;
  • ECTS;
  • metal artifact;
  • shrapnel

Computed tomography (CT) is commonly used to assess animals with head trauma. However, strongly attenuating objects such as metallic gunshot cause artifacts that may make accurate localization of shrapnel pieces difficult. The purpose of this study was to develop an optimized CT protocol for minimizing metal artifacts in an animal model of gunshot head trauma. A cadaver head of a stranded Gray seal (Halichoerus grypus) was shot post-mortem with a 0.223-inch caliber rifle. The head was frozen, thawed, and scanned using a multislice CT scanner and protocols with varying acquisition and reconstruction parameters. Scans were acquired with and without use of the scanner's proprietary Extended CT Scale (ECTS) mode and beam hardening reduction (Posterior Fossa Optimization [PFO]) filter. Window/level display settings were also varied. For each protocol and each of five selected metallic shrapnel pieces, a single observer measured combined metal halo artifact and shrapnel area using a hand-traced region of interest. The number of hypo- and hyper-attenuating streak artifacts was also recorded. Measurements were repeated for three different reading sessions. Metal CT artifacts were minimized with a high-frequency image reconstruction algorithm and a wide window setting. Further artifact reduction was achieved with a proprietary ECTS raw data reconstruction technique and a very wide window. This enabled a more confident evaluation of surrounding bone. On the other hand, these techniques are unfortunately not effective under conditions of soft tissue evaluation. Increasing tube voltage and use of a proprietary PFO filter did not yield a significant reduction in metal artifacts.