Next generation CT scanner performs well in first human study

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have successfully tested new photon-counting detector (PCD) CT technology on human patients for the first time, potentially giving radiologists and clinicians an enhanced look inside the body using multi-energy imaging, according to results of a study recently published in the journal Radiology.

Currently available CT scanners utilize energy-integrating detectors (EIDs) to create an electrical signal using x-ray photon energy. Conversely, PCDs calculate individual photon interactions through high-speed semiconductors, eliminating reliance on resolution-limiting scintillator crystals.

This advancement in CT scanner technology has several advantages, said lead author Amir Pourmorteza, PhD, and his colleagues from NIH.

“PCDs may offer substantial benefits over conventional EIDs, such as reduced sensitivity to electronic noise, increased contrast-to-noise ratio, higher spatial resolution, better material decomposition, and higher dose efficiency, which lead to a decrease in radiation exposure,” the researchers wrote. “Early results in phantoms and human cadavers demonstrated the potential for this relatively new technology.”

Pourmorteza and his team recently performed the first test of the new CT technology on human patients. They conducted radiation dose-matched delayed contrast agent-enhanced spiral and axial abdominal scans on 15 volunteer participants using both EID and PCD CT scanners, evaluating both methods using image quality, noise, artifact and spatial resolution scores. Scans using PCD were also used to investigate iodine concentration.

Their results showed that both systems displayed similar performance in all the categories studied, with PCD improving iodine mapping capabilities as compared to EID scans.

“At the current stage of development, the qualitative and quantitative image quality analyses showed similar performance in EID and PCD,” the authors concluded. “In addition, the current PCD system with two to four adjustable energy thresholds can acquire dual- and multi-energy projections from a single scan, which could be used in multi-material decomposition.”

The NIH has plans to continue testing of the new CT technology over the next five years, focusing on the development of scan protocols and processing algorithms to improve screening, imaging and treatment planning for a variety of health conditions, according to a press release.