Objectives To compare quantitative and subjective image quality between virtual monochromatic spectral (VMS) and conventional polychromatic 120-kVp imaging performed during the same abdominal computed tomography (CT) examination. Materials and methods Our institutional review board approved this prospective study; each participant provided written informed consent. 51 patients underwent sequential fast kVp-switching dual-energy (80/140 kVp, volume CT dose index: 12.7 mGy) and single-energy (120-kVp, 12.7 mGy) abdominal enhanced CT over an 8 cm scan length with a random acquisition order and a 4.3-s interval. VMS images with filtered back projection (VMS-FBP) and adaptive statistical iterative reconstruction (so-called hybrid IR) (VMS-ASIR) (at 70 keV), as well as 120-kVp images with FBP (120-kVp-FBP) and ASIR (120-kVp-ASIR), were generated from dual-energy and single-energy CT data, respectively. The objective image noises, signal-to-noise ratios and contrast-to-noise ratios of the liver, kidney, pancreas, spleen, portal vein and aorta, and the lesion-to-liver and lesion-to-kidney contrast-to-noise ratios were measured. Two radiologists independently and blindly assessed the subjective image quality. The results were analyzed using the paired t-test, Wilcoxon signed rank sum test and mixed-effects model with Bonferroni correction. Results VMS-ASIR images were superior to 120-kVp-FBP, 120-kVp-ASIR and VMS-FBP images for all the quantitative assessments and the subjective overall image quality (all P < 0.001), while VMS-FBP images were superior to 120-kVp-FBP and 120-kVp-ASIR images (all P < 0.004). Conclusions VMS images at 70 keV have a higher image quality than 120-kVp images, regardless of the application of hybrid IR. Hybrid IR can further improve the image quality of VMS imaging.
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