SU-E-I-25: Determining Tube Current, Tube Voltage and Pitch Suitable for Low- Dose Lung Screening CT




The quality of a computed tomography (CT) image and the dose delivered during its acquisition depend upon the acquisition parameters used. Tube current, tube voltage, and pitch are acquisition parameters that potentially affect image quality and dose. This study investigated physicians' abilities to characterize small, solid nodules in low-dose CT images for combinations of current, voltage and pitch, for three CT scanner models.


Lung CT images was acquired of a Data Spectrum anthropomorphic torso phantom with various combinations of pitch, tube current, and tube voltage; this phantom was used because acrylic beads of various sizes could be placed within the lung compartments to simulate nodules. The phantom was imaged on two 16-slice scanners and a 64-slice scanner. The acquisition parameters spanned a range of estimated CTDI levels; the CTDI estimates from the acquisition software were verified by measurement. Several experienced radiologists viewed the phantom lung CT images and noted nodule location, size and shape, as well as the acceptability of overall image quality.


Image quality for assessment of nodules was deemed unsatisfactory for all scanners at 80 kV (any tube current) and at 35 mA (any tube voltage). Tube current of 50 mA or more at 120 kV resulted in similar assessments from all three scanners. Physician-measured sphere diameters were closer to actual diameters for larger spheres, higher tube current, and higher kV. Pitch influenced size measurements less for larger spheres than for smaller spheres. CTDI was typically overestimated by the scanner software compared to measurement.


Based on this survey of acquisition parameters, a low-dose CT protocol of 120 kV, 50 mA, and pitch of 1.4 is recommended to balance patient dose and acceptable image quality. For three models of scanners, this protocol resulted in estimated CTDIs from 2.9–3.6 mGy.