OBJECTIVE: To determine the value of ultralow-dose chest CT for estimating the calcified atherosclerotic burden of the thoracic aorta using tin-filter CT and compare its diagnostic accuracy with chest direct radiography.
METHODS: A total of 106 patients from a prospective, IRB-approved single-centre study were included and underwent standard dose chest CT (1.7 ± 0.7 mSv) by clinical indication followed by ultralow-dose CT with 100 kV and spectral shaping by a tin filter (0.13 ± 0.01 mSv) to achieve chest X-ray equivalent dose in the same session. Two independent radiologists reviewed the CT images, rated image quality and estimated presence and extent of calcification of aortic valve, ascending aorta and aortic arch. Conventional radiographs were also reviewed for presence of aortic calcifications.
RESULTS: The sensitivity of ultralow-dose CT for the detection of calcifications of the aortic valve, ascending aorta and aortic arch was 93.5, 96.2 and 96.2%, respectively, compared with standard dose CT. The sensitivity for the detection of thoracic aortic calcification was significantly lower on chest X-ray (52.3%) compared with ultralow-dose CT (p < 0.001).
CONCLUSION: A reliable estimation of calcified atherosclerotic burden of the thoracic aorta can be achieved with modern tin-filter CT at dose values comparable to chest direct radiography. Advances in knowledge: Our findings suggest that ultralow-dose CT is an excellent tool for assessing the calcified atherosclerotic burden of the thoracic aorta with higher diagnostic accuracy than conventional chest radiography and importantly without the additional cost of increased radiation dose.