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Dual Energy CT Physics—A Primer for the Emergency Radiologist

  • Odedra, Devang1
  • Narayanasamy, Sabarish2
  • Sabongui, Sandra3
  • Priya, Sarv2
  • Krishna, Satheesh4
  • Sheikh, Adnan5
  • 1 Department of Radiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON , (Canada)
  • 2 Department of Radiology, Carver College of Medicine, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA , (United States)
  • 3 Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science, St Michael's Hospital, Toronto, ON , (Canada)
  • 4 Department of Medical Imaging, Mount Sinai Hospital, and Women's College Hospital, University Health Network, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON , (Canada)
  • 5 Department of Radiology, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC , (Canada)
Published Article
Frontiers in Radiology
Frontiers Media S.A.
Publication Date
Feb 24, 2022
DOI: 10.3389/fradi.2022.820430
  • Radiology
  • Mini Review


Dual energy CT (DECT) refers to the acquisition of CT images at two energy spectra and can provide information about tissue composition beyond that obtainable by conventional CT. The attenuation of a photon beam varies depends on the atomic number and density of the attenuating material and the energy of the incoming photon beam. This differential attenuation of the beam at varying energy levels forms the basis of DECT imaging and enables separation of materials with different atomic numbers but similar CT attenuation. DECT can be used to detect and quantify materials like iodine, calcium, or uric acid. Several post-processing techniques are available to generate virtual non-contrast images, iodine maps, virtual mono-chromatic images, Mixed or weighted images and material specific images. Although initially the concept of dual energy CT was introduced in 1970, it is only over the past two decades that it has been extensively used in clinical practice owing to advances in CT hardware and post-processing capabilities. There are numerous applications of DECT in Emergency radiology including stroke imaging to differentiate intracranial hemorrhage and contrast staining, diagnosis of pulmonary embolism, characterization of incidentally detected renal and adrenal lesions, to reduce beam and metal hardening artifacts, in identification of uric acid renal stones and in the diagnosis of gout. This review article aims to provide the emergency radiologist with an overview of the physics and basic principles of dual energy CT. In addition, we discuss the types of DECT acquisition and post processing techniques including newer advances such as photon-counting CT followed by a brief discussion on the applications of DECT in Emergency radiology.

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