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Emerg Radiol. 2014 Jun;21(3):251-6. doi: 10.1007/s10140-014-1194-4. Epub 2014 Jan 28.

Emergency department CT screening of patients with nontraumatic neurological symptoms referred to the posterior fossa: comparison of thin versus thick slice images.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, GRB 2nd Floor-279, 55 Fruit Street, Boston, MA, 02114, USA.


Evaluation of the posterior fossa (PF) on 5-mm-thick helical CT images (current default) has improved diagnostic accuracy compared to 5-mm sequential CT images; however, 5-mm-thick images may not be ideal for PF pathology due to volume averaging of rapid changes in anatomy in the Z-direction. Therefore, we sought to determine if routine review of 1.25-mm-thin helical CT images has superior accuracy in screening for nontraumatic PF pathology. MRI proof of diagnosis was obtained within 6 h of helical CT acquisition for 90 consecutive ED patients with, and 88 without, posterior fossa lesions. Helical CT images were post-processed at 1.25 and 5-mm-axial slice thickness. Two neuroradiologists blinded to the clinical/MRI findings reviewed both image sets. Interobserver agreement and accuracy were rated using Kappa statistics and ROC analysis, respectively. Of the 90/178 (51 %) who were MR positive, 60/90 (66 %) had stroke and 30/90 (33 %) had other etiologies. There was excellent interobserver agreement (κ > 0.97) for both thick and thin slice assessments. The accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity for 1.25-mm images were 65, 44, and 84 %, respectively, and for 5-mm images were 67, 45, and 85 %, respectively. The diagnostic accuracy was not significantly different (p > 0.5). In this cohort of patients with nontraumatic neurological symptoms referred to the posterior fossa, 1.25-mm-thin slice CT reformatted images do not have superior accuracy compared to 5-mm-thick images. This information has implications on optimizing resource utilizations and efficiency in a busy emergency room. Review of 1.25-mm-thin images may help diagnostic accuracy only when review of 5-mm-thick images as current default is inconclusive.

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