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To evaluate a three-equation three-unknown dual-energy quantitative CT (DEQCT) technique for determining region specific variations in bone spongiosa composition for improved red marrow dose estimation in radionuclide therapy.

The DEQCT method was applied to 80/140 kVp images of patient-simulating lumbar sectional body phantoms of three sizes (small, medium, and large). External calibration rods of bone, red marrow, and fat-simulating materials were placed beneath the body phantoms. Similar internal calibration inserts were placed at vertebral locations within the body phantoms. Six test inserts of known volume fractions of bone, fat, and red marrow were also scanned. External-to-internal calibration correction factors were derived. The effects of body phantom size, radiation dose, spongiosa region segmentation granularity [single (∼17 × 17 mm) region of interest (ROI), 2 × 2, and 3 × 3 segmentation of that single ROI], and calibration method on the accuracy of the calculated volume fractions of red marrow (cellularity) and trabecular bone were evaluated.

For standard low dose DEQCT x-ray technique factors and the internal calibration method, the RMS errors of the estimated volume fractions of red marrow of the test inserts were 1.2–1.3 times greater in the medium body than in the small body phantom and 1.3–1.5 times greater in the large body than in the small body phantom. RMS errors of the calculated volume fractions of red marrow within 2 × 2 segmented subregions of the ROIs were 1.6–1.9 times greater than for no segmentation, and RMS errors for 3 × 3 segmented subregions were 2.3–2.7 times greater than those for no segmentation. Increasing the dose by a factor of 2 reduced the RMS errors of all constituent volume fractions by an average factor of 1.40 ± 0.29 for all segmentation schemes and body phantom sizes; increasing the dose by a factor of 4 reduced those RMS errors by an average factor of 1.71 ± 0.25. Results for external calibrations exhibited much larger RMS errors than size matched internal calibration. Use of an average body size external-to-internal calibration correction factor reduced the errors to closer to those for internal calibration. RMS errors of less than 30% or about 0.01 for the bone and 0.1 for the red marrow volume fractions would likely be satisfactory for human studies. Such accuracies were achieved for 3 × 3 segmentation of 5 mm slice images for: (a) internal calibration with 4 times dose for all size body phantoms, (b) internal calibration with 2 times dose for the small and medium size body phantoms, and (c) corrected external calibration with 4 times dose and all size body phantoms.

Phantom studies are promising and demonstrate the potential to use dual energy quantitative CT to estimate the spatial distributions of red marrow and bone within the vertebral spongiosa.


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