Investigating new CT contrast agents: a phantom study exploring quantification and differentiation methods for high-Z elements using dual-energy CT

Todd C. Soesbe, Yin Xi, Khaled Nasr, John R. Leyendecker, Robert E Lenkinski, Matthew A. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: To develop a dual-energy CT method for differentiating and quantifying high-Z contrast elements and to evaluate the limitations based on element concentration and atomic number by using an anthropomorphic phantom study. Methods: Mass spectrometry standards for iodine, barium, gadolinium, ytterbium, tantalum, gold, and bismuth were diluted from 10.0 to 0.3 mg/mL, placed inside 7-mL vials, and scanned with dual-energy CT using an abdominal phantom and cylindrical water-filled insert. This procedure was repeated with all seven high-Z elements at six isoattenuating values from 250 to 8 HU. Quantification accuracy was measured using a linear regression model and residual error analysis with 90% limits of agreement. The limit of detection for each element was evaluated using the limit of blank of water. Pairwise differentiation of isoattenuating vials was evaluated using AUC values and the difference in fit angles between the two elements. Results: Each high-Z element had a unique concentration vector in a two-dimensional plot of Compton scattering versus photoelectric effect attenuations. Mean quantification values were within ± 0.1 mg/mL of the true values for each element with no proportional bias. Limits of detection ranged from 0.35 to 0.56 mg/mL. Pairwise differentiations were proportional to the isoattenuating HU and the angle between the linear fits with mean AUC values increasing from 0.61 to 0.98 at 8 to 250 HU, respectively. Conclusion: Dual-energy CT can differentiate and quantify isoattenuating high-Z elements. The high-attenuation characteristics and unique concentration vectors of ytterbium, tantalum, gold, and bismuth are well suited for new dual-energy CT contrast agents especially when simultaneously imaged with iodine, barium, or gadolinium. Key Points: • Dual-energy CT can accurately quantify high-Z contrast elements and readily differentiate iodine, barium, and gadolinium from ytterbium, tantalum, gold, and bismuth. • The differentiation and quantification capabilities for high-Z contrast elements are largely unaffected by phantom size and transaxial location within the phantom. • Potential benefits of new CT contrast agents based on these high-Z elements include alternatives for patients with iodine sensitivity, high conspicuity at both 120 and 140 kVp, simultaneous imaging of two contrast agents, and reduced injection volume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8060-8067
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Radiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Contrast media
  • Imaging
  • Phantoms
  • Tomography, X-ray computed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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