Objectives: The purpose of this study was to select the optimal monochromatic level for virtual monochromatic spectral (VMS) imaging to minimize the image noise of the liver parenchyma and to acquire a high contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) of hypovascular hepatic metastases in the portal-dominant phase. Materials and Methods: This study was conducted with the approval of our institutional review board, and written informed consent was obtained from all the participating patients. Ninety patients with hepatic metastases were scanned by fast kilovoltage switching dual-energy computed tomography in the portal-dominant phase. One hundred one sets of VMS images in the range of 40 to 140 keV at 1-keV intervals were reconstructed. The image noise of the liver parenchyma in each patient and the CNR of each metastasis (n = 303) were measured on all the 101 VMS image sets. Data were analyzed by the paired t test and mixed-effects model. Bonferroni's method was used for multiple comparisons. Results: The lowest noise of the liver parenchyma was obtained in 6, 15, 31, 29, 7, 1, and 1 patient at 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, and 73 keV, respectively. The mean noise of the liver parenchyma on the 69-keV VMS images in all 90 patients was significantly lower than that on the 67-, 68-, 71-, 72-, and 73-keV VMS images (P < 0.001); however, there was no significant difference in the mean noise of the liver parenchyma between the 69-keV and 70-keV VMS images (P = 0.279). For 95% of the hepatic metastases (288/303 metastases), the highest metastasis-to-liver CNR was obtained in the 66-to 71-keV VMS images. The mean metastasis-to-liver CNR for the 303 metastases was numerically highest at 68 keV; however, there was no significant difference in the mean metastasis-to-liver CNR between the 68-keV and 69-keV images (P = 0.737) or between the 68-keV and 70-keV images (P = 0.103). Conclusions: VMS imaging at approximately 70 keV (69-70 keV) yielded the lowest image noise of the liver parenchyma and a high CNR for hypovascular hepatic metastases in the portal-dominant phase.
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