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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2009 Apr;192(4):866-72. doi: 10.2214/AJR.08.1758.

Radiation dose in a "triple rule-out" coronary CT angiography protocol of emergency department patients using 64-MDCT: the impact of ECG-based tube current modulation on age, sex, and body mass index.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, 1020 Sansom St., Ste. 239, Thompson Bldg., Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.



"Triple rule-out" coronary CT angiography (CTA) using 64-MDCT technology is a new approach for evaluating emergency department patients presenting with symptoms suggestive of acute coronary syndrome (ACS). Our objective was to evaluate the reduction in effective radiation dose through the use of tube current modulation in patients who underwent a triple rule-out coronary CTA evaluation and to document how effective radiation dose was impacted by patient age, sex, and body mass index (BMI).


A retrospective analysis of triple rule-out coronary CTA examinations performed on a 64-MDCT scanner was ordered on a prospective cohort of 267 consecutive low- to moderate-risk emergency department patients with suspected ACS from a single university hospital between October 2006 and March 2008. Tube current modulation was generally used in patients with heart rates below 65 beats per minute during the second half of the study period as a way to reduce radiation exposure. We calculated effective radiation exposure using actual patient coronary CTA scanning parameters by age, sex, and BMI.


Among the 172 patients evaluated without tube current modulation, effective dose averaged (+/- SD) 18.0 +/- 5.6 mSv (range, 9.9-31.3 mSv). Of the 95 patients who underwent CTA examination with tube current modulation, effective dose was significantly lower at 8.75 +/- 2.64 mSv (range, 5.4-16.6 mSv; p < 0.0001) and image quality was better (p < 0.0001) as compared with examinations without tube current modulation. There were no significant radiation differences by patient age, but tube current modulation decreased radiation exposure by at least half. Among the studies in which tube current modulation was not used, women received less radiation than men (17.0 vs 19.5 mSv, respectively; p < 0.001). For the studies with tube current modulation, there were no radiation differences by sex. Obese patients received significantly more radiation than overweight and normal-weight patients in the non-tube current modulation groups (20.9 mSv vs 15.0 and 14.9 mSv, respectively; p < 0.0001) and in the tube current modulation groups (10.3 mSv vs 7.6 and 7.1 mSv, p < 0.0001).


The overall effective radiation dose for triple rule-out coronary CTA was reduced by more than 50% with ECG-based tube current modulation without loss of image quality. Tube current modulation should be used for triple rule-out coronary CTA examinations whenever possible.

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