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Computed Tomography Technology—and Dose—in the 21st Century

McCollough, Cynthia H.1

doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000000997

In the last decade or so, a number of disruptive technological advances have taken place in x-ray computed tomography, making possible new clinical applications. Changes in scanner design have included the use of two x-ray sources and two detectors or the use of large detector arrays that provide 16 cm of longitudinal coverage in one gantry rotation. These advances have allowed images of the entire heart to be acquired in just one heartbeat, lowering the effective dose from cardiac computed tomography from ~15 mSv to <1 mSv. Dual-energy computed tomography is now in widespread clinical use, enabling the assessment of material composition and concentration, as well as a range of new clinical applications. An emerging technology known as photon-counting detector computed tomography directly measures the energies of detected photons and is capable of simultaneously acquiring more than two energy data sets. Photon-counting detector computed tomography also provides advantages such as the ability to reject electronic noise, better iodine contrast-to-noise for a given dose, and spatial resolution as fine as 150 μm. Optimized x-ray tube potential selection has allowed reduction in radiation and contrast doses. Finally, wide adoption of iterative reconstruction and noise-reduction techniques has occurred. In all, body computed tomography doses have fallen dramatically, for example, by over a factor of 3 from the early 1980s. All of these advances increase the medical benefit and decrease the potential radiation risk associated with computed tomography. However, care must be taken to ensure that doses are not lowered to the level at which the clinical task is compromised.

1Department of Radiology, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905.

The author (CHM) receives research support from Siemens Healthcare.

For correspondence contact the author at the above address, or email at

(Manuscript accepted 13 September 2018)

© 2019 by the Health Physics Society