PURPOSE: To determine the sensitivity and specificity of cardiac gated electron-beam computed tomography (CT) and ungated helical CT in detecting and quantifying coronary arterial calcification (CAC) by using a working heart phantom and artificial coronary arteries. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A working heart phantom simulating normal cardiac motion and providing attenuation equal to that of an adult thorax was used. Thirty tubes with a 3-mm inner diameter were internally coated with pulverized human cortical bone mixed with epoxy glue to simulate minimal (n = 10), mild (n = 10), or severe (n = 10) calcified plaques. Ten additional tubes were not coated and served as normal controls. The tubes were attached to the same location on the phantom heart and scanned with electron-beam CT and helical CT in horizontal and vertical planes. Actual plaque calcium content was subsequently quantified with atopic spectroscopy. Two blinded experienced radiologic imaging teams, one for each CT system, separately measured calcium content in the model vessels by using a Hounsfield unit threshold of 130 or greater. RESULTS: The sensitivity and specificity of electron-beam CT in detecting CAC were 66.1% and 80.0%, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of helical CT were 96.4% and 95.0%, respectively. Electron-beam CT was less reliable when vessels were oriented vertically (sensitivity and specificity, 71.4% and 70%; 95% CI: 39.0%, 75.0%) versus horizontally (sensitivity and specificity, 60.7% and 90.0%; 95% CI: 48.0%, 82.0%). When a correction factor was applied, the volume of calcified plaque was statistically better quantified with helical CT than with electron-beam CT (P = .004). CONCLUSION: Ungated helical CT depicts coronary arterial calcium better than does gated electron-beam CT. When appropriate correction factors are applied, helical CT is superior to electron-beam CT in quantifying coronary arterial calcium. Although further work must be done to optimize helical CT grading systems and scanning protocols, the data of this study demonstrated helical CT's inherent advantage over currently commercially available electron-beam CT systems in CAC detection and quantification.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging