This study aimed to evaluate the reliability of liver and spleen Hounsfield units (HU) measurements in reduced radiation computed tomography (RRCT) of the chest within the sub-millisievert range.
We performed a prospective, institutional review board–approved study of accrued patients who underwent unenhanced normal-dose chest CT (NDCT) and with an average radiation dose of less than 5% of NDCT. In-house artificial intelligence–based denoising methods produced 2 denoised RRCT (dRRCT) series. Hepatic and splenic attenuations were measured on all 4 series: NDCT, RRCT, dRRCT1, and dRRCT2. Statistical analyses assessed the differences between the HU measurements of the liver and spleen in RRCTs and NDCT. As a test case, we assessed the performance of RRCTs for fatty liver detection, considering NDCT to be the reference standard.
Wilcoxon test compared liver and spleen attenuation in the 72 patients included in our cohort. The liver attenuation in NDCT (median, 59.38 HU; interquartile range, 55.00–66.06 HU) was significantly different from the attenuation in RRCT, dRRCT1, and dRRCT2 (median, 63.63, 42.00, and 33.67 HU; interquartile range, 56.19–67.19, 37.33–45.83, and 30.33–38.50 HU, respectively), all with a P value <0.01. Six patients (8.3%) were considered to have fatty liver on NDCT. The specificity, sensitivity, and accuracy of fatty liver detection by RRCT were greater than 98.5%, 50%, and 94.3%, respectively.
Attenuation measurements were significantly different between NDCT and RRCTs, but may still have diagnostic value in appreciating hepatosteastosis. Abdominal organ attenuation on RRCT protocols may differ from attenuation on NDCT and should be validated when new low-dose protocols are used.