Reducing Radiation Dose to the Female Breast during CT Coronary Angiography: A Simulation Study Comparing Breast Shielding, Angular Tube Current Modulation, Reduced kV, and Partial Angle Protocols Using an Unknown-location Signal-detectability Metric

Document Type




Format of Original

14 p.

Publication Date



American Association of Physicists in Medicine

Source Publication

Medical Physics

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.1118/1.4816302



The authors compared the performance of five protocols intended to reduce dose to the breast during computed tomography (CT) coronary angiography scans using a model observer unknown-location signal-detectability metric.


The authors simulated CT images of an anthropomorphic female thorax phantom for a 120 kV reference protocol and five “dose reduction” protocols intended to reduce dose to the breast: 120 kV partial angle (posteriorly centered), 120 kV tube-current modulated (TCM), 120 kV with shielded breasts, 80 kV, and 80 kV partial angle (posteriorly centered). Two image quality tasks were investigated: the detection and localization of 4-mm, 3.25 mg/ml and 1-mm, 6.0 mg/ml iodine contrast signals randomly located in the heart region. For each protocol, the authors plotted the signal detectability, as quantified by the area under the exponentially transformed free response characteristic curve estimator (AˆFE), as well as noise and contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) versus breast and lung dose. In addition, the authors quantified each protocol's dose performance as the percent difference in dose relative to the reference protocol achieved while maintaining equivalentAˆFE.


For the 4-mm signal-size task, the 80 kV full scan and 80 kV partial angle protocols decreased dose to the breast (80.5% and 85.3%, respectively) and lung (80.5% and 76.7%, respectively) withAˆFE= 0.96, but also resulted in an approximate three-fold increase in image noise. The 120 kV partial protocol reduced dose to the breast (17.6%) at the expense of increased lung dose (25.3%). The TCM algorithm decreased dose to the breast (6.0%) and lung (10.4%). Breast shielding increased breast dose (67.8%) and lung dose (103.4%). The 80 kV and 80 kV partial protocols demonstrated greater dose reductions for the 4-mm task than for the 1-mm task, and the shielded protocol showed a larger increase in dose for the 4-mm task than for the 1-mm task. In general, the CNR curves indicate a similar relative ranking of protocol performance as the correspondingAˆFEcurves, however, the CNR metric overestimated the performance of the shielded protocol for both tasks, leading to corresponding underestimates in the relative dose increases compared to those obtained when using theAˆFEmetric.


The 80 kV and 80 kV partial angle protocols demonstrated the greatest reduction to breast and lung dose, however, the subsequent increase in image noise may be deemed clinically unacceptable. Tube output for these protocols can be adjusted to achieve a more desirable noise level with lesser breast dose savings. Breast shielding increased breast and lung dose when maintaining equivalentAˆFE. The results demonstrated that comparisons of dose performance depend on both the image quality metric and the specific task, and that CNR may not be a reliable metric of signal detectability.


Medical Physics, Vol. 40, No. 8 (August 2013): 081921:1-14. DOI.