OBJECTIVES: To measure the effect of reduced radiation exposure on low-contrast low-attenuation liver lesion detection in an anthropomorphic abdominal phantom by using filtered back projection (FBP) and sinogram-affirmed iterative reconstruction.
METHODS: Eighteen radiologists blinded to phantom and study design interpreted randomized image data sets that contained 36 spherical simulated liver lesions of three sizes and three attenuation differences (5-mm diameter: 12, 18, and 24 HU less than the 90-HU background attenuation of the simulated liver insert; 10- and 15-mm diameter: 6, 12, and 18 HU less than the 90-HU background attenuation) scanned with four discrete exposure settings and reconstructed by using FBP and sinogram-affirmed iterative reconstruction. Response assessment included region-level lesion presence or absence on a five-point diagnostic confidence scale. Statistical evaluation included multireader multicase receiver operating characteristic curve analysis, with nonparametric methods and noninferiority analysis at a margin of -0.10.
RESULTS: Pooled accuracy at 75% exposure for both FBP and sinogram-affirmed iterative reconstruction was noninferior to 100% exposure (P = .002 and P < .001, respectively). Subsequent exposure reductions resulted in a significant decrease in accuracy. When the smallest (5-mm-diameter) lesions were excluded from analysis, sinogram-affirmed iterative reconstruction was superior to FBP at 100% exposure (P = .011), and sinogram-affirmed iterative reconstruction at 25% and 50% exposure reduction was noninferior to FBP at 100% exposure (P â‰¤ .013). Reader confidence was greater with sinogram-affirmed iterative reconstruction than with FBP for 10- and 15-mm lesions (2.94 vs 2.76 and 3.62 vs 3.52, respectively).
CONCLUSIONS: In this low-contrast low-attenuation liver lesion model, a 25% exposure reduction maintained noninferior diagnostic accuracy. However, detection was inferior with each subsequent exposure reduction, regardless of reconstruction method. Sinogram-affirmed iterative reconstruction and FBP performed equally well at modest exposure reduction (25%-50%). Readers had higher confidence levels with sinogram-affirmed iterative reconstruction for the 10- and 15-mm lesions.