Clinical Applications of Photon-counting CT: A Review of Pioneer Studies and a Glimpse into the Future
Philippe C Douek, Sara Boccalini, Edwin H G Oei, David P Cormode, Amir Pourmorteza, Loic Boussel, Salim A Si-Mohamed, Ricardo P J Budde
Radiology . 2023 Oct;309(1):e222432. doi: 10.1148/radiol.222432.
CT systems equipped with photon-counting detectors (PCDs), referred to as photon-counting CT (PCCT), are beginning to change imaging in several subspecialties, such as cardiac, vascular, thoracic, and musculoskeletal radiology. Evidence has been building in the literature underpinning the many advantages of PCCT for different clinical applications. These benefits derive from the distinct features of PCDs, which are made of semiconductor materials capable of converting photons directly into electric signal. PCCT advancements include, among the most important, improved spatial resolution, noise reduction, and spectral properties. PCCT spatial resolution on the order of 0.25 mm allows for the improved visualization of small structures (eg, small vessels, arterial walls, distal bronchi, and bone trabeculations) and their pathologies, as well as the identification of previously undetectable anomalies. In addition, blooming artifacts from calcifications, stents, and other dense structures are reduced. The benefits of the spectral capabilities of PCCT are broad and include reducing radiation and contrast material dose for patients. In addition, multiple types of information can be extracted from a single data set (ie, multiparametric imaging), including quantitative data often regarded as surrogates of functional information (eg, lung perfusion). PCCT also allows for a novel type of CT imaging, K-edge imaging. This technique, combined with new contrast materials specifically designed for this modality, opens the door to new applications for imaging in the future.