Eur Radiol. 2022 Jul 27. doi: 10.1007/s00330-022-09018-5. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate a novel deep learning image reconstruction (DLIR) technique for dual-energy CT (DECT) derived virtual monoenergetic (VM) images compared to adaptive statistical iterative reconstruction (ASIR-V) in low kiloelectron volt (keV) images.
METHODS: We analyzed 30 venous phase acute abdominal DECT (80/140 kVp) scans. Data were reconstructed to ASIR-V and DLIR-High at four different keV levels (40, 50, 74, and 100) with 1- and 3-mm slice thickness. Quantitative Hounsfield unit (HU) and noise assessment were measured within the liver, aorta, fat, and muscle. Subjective assessment of image noise, sharpness, texture, and overall quality was performed by two board-certified radiologists.
RESULTS: DLIR reduced image noise by 19.9-35.5% (p < 0.001) compared to ASIR-V in all reconstructions at identical keV levels. Contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) increased by 49.2-53.2% (p < 0.001) in DLIR 40-keV images compared to ASIR-V 50 keV, while no significant difference in noise was identified except for 1 and 3 mm in aorta and for 1-mm liver measurements, where ASIR-V 50 keV showed 5.5-6.8% (p < 0.002) lower noise levels. Qualitative assessment demonstrated significant improvement particularly in 1-mm reconstructions (p < 0.001). Lastly, DLIR 40 keV demonstrated comparable or improved image quality ratings when compared to ASIR-V 50 keV (p < 0.001 to 0.22).
CONCLUSION: DLIR significantly reduced image noise compared to ASIR-V. Qualitative assessment showed that DLIR significantly improved image quality particularly in thin sliced images. DLIR may facilitate 40 keV as a new standard for routine low-keV VM reconstruction in contrast-enhanced abdominal DECT.
KEY POINTS: • DLIR enables 40 keV as the routine low-keV VM reconstruction. • DLIR significantly reduced image noise compared to ASIR-V, across a wide range of keV levels in VM DECT images. • In low-keV VM reconstructions, improvements in image quality using DLIR were most evident and consistent in 1-mm sliced images.