OBJECTIVE: To determine the accuracy of unenhanced helical computed tomography (CT) performed at reduced milliampere-second, and therefore at a reduced patient radiation dose, by using conventional unenhanced helical CT as the standard. METHODS: Fifty patients with acute flank pain who weighed less than 200 lb (90 kg) were prospectively recruited for this study. Conventional helical CT scans were obtained with patients in the prone position by using 5-mm-thick sections, 140 kVp, 135-208 mAs (mean, 160 mAs), and a pitch of 1.5 (single-detector row CT) or 0.75 (multi-detector row CT, 4 x 5-mm detector configuration). Conventional CT was immediately followed by low-dose scanning, whereby the tube current was reduced to 100 mA (mean, 76 mAs). All other technical parameters and anatomic coverage remained constant. Three independent readers who were blinded to patient identity interpreted the scans in random order. The observers noted the location, size, and number of calculi; secondary signs of obstruction; and other clinically relevant findings. High- and low-dose scans were compared by using paired t tests and the signed rank test. RESULTS: Calculi were found in 33 (66%) patients; 25 (50%) had renal calculi and 19 (38%) had an obstructing ureteral calculus. The accuracy rates (averaged over the three readers) for determining the various findings on the low-dose scan compared with the high-dose scan were as follows: nephrolithiasis, 91%; ureterolithiasis, 94%; obstruction, 91%; and normal findings, 92%. When interpretations between readers were compared, agreement rates were 90%-95% for standard-dose scans and 90%-92% for reduced-dose scans (P >.5). Uncomplicated mild diverticulitis was found in three patients. No other clinically important abnormality was identified. A reduction in the tube current to 100 mA resulted in a dose reduction of 25% for multi-detector row CT and 42% for single-detector row CT. CONCLUSIONS: In patients who weighed less than 200 lb, unenhanced helical CT performed at a reduced tube current of 100 mA, and therefore at a reduced patient dose, resulted in scans of high accuracy.
Adolescent • Adult • Aged • Aged, 80 and over • Body Weight • Female • Humans • Kidney Calculi • Male • Middle Aged • Phantoms, Imaging • Radiation Dosage • Sensitivity and Specificity • Tomography, Spiral Computed* • Tomography, X-Ray Computed • Ureteral Calculi • radiography*