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Estimating Radiation Dose Metrics for Patients Undergoing Tube Current Modulation CT Scans


Computed tomography (CT) has long been a powerful tool in the diagnosis of disease, identification of tumors and guidance of interventional procedures. With CT examinations comes the concern of radiation exposure and the associated risks. In order to properly understand those risks on a patient-specific level, organ dose must be quantified for each CT scan. Some of the most widely used organ dose estimates are derived from fixed tube current (FTC) scans of a standard sized idealized patient model. However, in current clinical practice, patient size varies from neonates weighing just a few kg to morbidly obese patients weighing over 200 kg, and nearly all CT exams are performed with tube current modulation (TCM), a scanning technique that adjusts scanner output according to changes in patient attenuation. Methods to account for TCM in CT organ dose estimates have been previously demonstrated, but these methods are limited in scope and/or restricted to idealized TCM profiles that are not based on physical observations and not scanner specific (e.g. don’t account for tube limits, scanner-specific effects, etc.).

The goal of this work was to develop methods to estimate organ doses to patients undergoing CT scans that take into account both the patient size as well as the effects of TCM. This work started with the development and validation of methods to estimate scanner-specific TCM schemes for any voxelized patient model. An approach was developed to generate estimated TCM schemes that match actual TCM schemes that would have been acquired on the scanner for any patient model. Using this approach, TCM schemes were then generated for a variety of body CT protocols for a set of reference voxelized phantoms for which TCM information does not currently exist. These are whole body patient models representing a variety of sizes, ages and genders that have all radiosensitive organs identified. TCM schemes for these models facilitated Monte Carlo-based estimates of fully-, partially- and indirectly-irradiated organ dose from TCM CT exams. By accounting for the effects of patient size in the organ dose estimates, a comprehensive set of patient-specific dose estimates from TCM CT exams was developed. These patient-specific organ dose estimates from TCM CT exams will provide a more complete understanding of the dose impact and risks associated with modern body CT scanning protocols.

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