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Eur J Radiol. 2012 Mar;81(3):e398-405. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2011.12.011. Epub 2012 Jan 10.

Virtual non-contrast in second-generation, dual-energy computed tomography: reliability of attenuation values.

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Department of Radiology, Medical University Vienna/Vienna General Hospital, Vienna, Austria.



To evaluate the reliability of attenuation values in virtual non-contrast images (VNC) reconstructed from contrast-enhanced, dual-energy scans performed on a second-generation dual-energy CT scanner, compared to single-energy, non-contrast images (TNC).


Sixteen phantoms containing a mixture of contrast agent and water at different attenuations (0-1400 HU) were investigated on a Definition Flash-CT scanner using a single-energy scan at 120 kV and a DE-CT protocol (100 kV/SN140 kV). For clinical assessment, 86 patients who received a dual-phase CT, containing an unenhanced single-energy scan at 120 kV and a contrast enhanced (110 ml Iomeron 400 mg/ml; 4 ml/s) DE-CT (100 kV/SN140 kV) in an arterial (n=43) or a venous phase, were retrospectively analyzed. Mean attenuation was measured within regions of interest of the phantoms and in different tissue types of the patients within the corresponding VNC and TNC images. Paired t-tests and Pearson correlation were used for statistical analysis.


For all phantoms, mean attenuation in VNC was 5.3±18.4 HU, with respect to water. In 86 patients overall, 2637 regions were measured in TNC and VNC images, with a mean difference between TNC and VNC of -3.6±8.3 HU. In 91.5% (n=2412) of all cases, absolute differences between TNC and VNC were under 15HU, and, in 75.3% (n=1986), differences were under 10 HU.


Second-generation dual-energy CT based VNC images provide attenuation values close to those of TNC. To avoid possible outliers multiple measurements are recommended especially for measurements in the spleen, the mesenteric fat, and the aorta.

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