Investigation of lung nodule detectability in low-dose 320-slice computed tomography

J. D. Silverman, N. S. Paul, J. H. Siewerdsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Low-dose imaging protocols in chest CT are important in the screening and surveillance of suspicious and indeterminate lung nodules. Techniques that maintain nodule detectability yet permit dose reduction, particularly for large body habitus, were investigated. The objective of this study was to determine the extent to which radiation dose can be minimized while maintaining diagnostic performance through knowledgeable selection of reconstruction techniques. A 320-slice volumetric CT scanner (Aquilion ONE Toshiba Medical Systems) was used to scan an anthropomorphic phantom at doses ranging from ∼0.1 mGy up to that typical of low-dose CT (LDCT, ∼5 mGy) and diagnostic CT (∼10 mGy). Radiation dose was measured via Farmer chamber and MOSFET dosimetry. The phantom presented simulated nodules of varying size and contrast within a heterogeneous background, and chest thickness was varied through addition of tissue-equivalent bolus about the chest. Detectability of a small solid lung nodule (3.2 mm diameter, -37 HU, typically the smallest nodule of clinical significance in screening and surveillance) was evaluated as a function of dose, patient size, reconstruction filter, and slice thickness by means of nine-alternative forced-choice (9AFC) observer tests to quantify nodule detectability. For a given reconstruction filter, nodule detectability decreased sharply below a threshold dose level due to increased image noise, especially for large body size. However, nodule detectability could be maintained at lower doses through knowledgeable selection of (smoother) reconstruction filters. For large body habitus, optimal filter selection reduced the dose required for nodule detection by up to a factor of ∼3 (from ∼3.3 mGy for sharp filters to ∼1.0 mGy for the optimal filter). The results indicate that radiation dose can be reduced below the current low-dose (5 mGy) and ultralow-dose (1 mGy) levels with knowledgeable selection of reconstruction parameters. Image noise, not spatial resolution, was found to be the limiting factor in detection of small lung nodules. Therefore, the use of smoother reconstruction filters may permit lower-dose protocols without trade-off in diagnostic performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1700-1710
Number of pages11
JournalMedical physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Chest CT
  • Detectability
  • Low-dose CT
  • Lung cancer screening
  • Lung nodule surveillance
  • MAFC
  • Observer performance
  • Reconstruction filter
  • Volumetric CT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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