To describe the quantitative image quality and histogram-based evaluation of an iterative reconstruction (IR) algorithm in chest computed tomography (CT) scans at low-to-ultralow CT radiation dose levels.
In an adult anthropomorphic phantom, chest CT scans were performed with 128-section dual-source CT at 70, 80, 100, 120, and 140 kVp, and the reference (3.4 mGy in volume CT Dose Index [CTDI vol]), 30%-, 60%-, and 90%-reduced radiation dose levels (2.4, 1.4, and 0.3 mGy). The CT images were reconstructed by using filtered back projection (FBP) algorithms and IR algorithm with strengths 1, 3, and 5. Image noise, signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), and contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) were statistically compared between different dose levels, tube voltages, and reconstruction algorithms. Moreover, histograms of subtraction images before and after standardization in x- and y-axes were visually compared.
Compared with FBP images, IR images with strengths 1, 3, and 5 demonstrated image noise reduction up to 49.1%, SNR increase up to 100.7%, and CNR increase up to 67.3%. Noteworthy image quality degradations on IR images including a 184.9% increase in image noise, 63.0% decrease in SNR, and 51.3% decrease in CNR, and were shown between 60% and 90% reduced levels of radiation dose ( p < 0.0001). Subtraction histograms between FBP and IR images showed progressively increased dispersion with increased IR strength and increased dose reduction. After standardization, the histograms appeared deviated and ragged between FBP images and IR images with strength 3 or 5, but almost normally-distributed between FBP images and IR images with strength 1.