Korean J Radiol.  2021 Apr;22(4):624-633. 10.3348/kjr.2020.0914.

Reliability of Skeletal Muscle Area Measurement on CT with Different Parameters: A Phantom Study

Affiliations
  • 1Department of Radiology and Research Institute of Radiology, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea.
  • 2Biomedical Research Center, Asan Institute for Life Sciences, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Department of Radiology and Research Institute of Radiology, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 4School of Computer Science and Engineering, Soongsil University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 5Department of Radiology, Kyung Hee University Hospital, Seoul, Korea.
  • 6Department of Radiology, Wonkwang University College of Medicine, Wonkwang University Hospital, Iksan, Korea.
  • 7Health Screening & Promotion Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea

Abstract


Objective
To evaluate the reliability of CT measurements of muscle quantity and quality using variable CT parameters.
Materials and Methods
A phantom, simulating the L2–4 vertebral levels, was used for this study. CT images were repeatedly acquired with modulation of tube voltage, tube current, slice thickness, and the image reconstruction algorithm. Reference standard muscle compartments were obtained from the reference maps of the phantom. Cross-sectional area based on the Hounsfield unit (HU) thresholds of muscle and its components, and the mean density of the reference standard muscle compartment, were used to measure the muscle quantity and quality using different CT protocols. Signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) were calculated in the images acquired with different settings.
Results
The skeletal muscle area (threshold, -29 to 150 HU) was constant, regardless of the protocol, occupying at least 91.7% of the reference standard muscle compartment. Conversely, normal attenuation muscle area (30–150 HU) was not constant in the different protocols, varying between 59.7% and 81.7% of the reference standard muscle compartment. The mean density was lower than the target density stated by the manufacturer (45 HU) in all cases (range, 39.0–44.9 HU). The SNR decreased with low tube voltage, low tube current, and in sections with thin slices, whereas it increased when the iterative reconstruction algorithm was used.
Conclusion
Measurement of muscle quantity using HU threshold was reliable, regardless of the CT protocol used. Conversely, the measurement of muscle quality using the mean density and narrow HU thresholds were inconsistent and inaccurate across different CT protocols. Therefore, further studies are warranted in future to determine the optimal CT protocols for reliable measurements of muscle quality.

Keyword

Computed tomography; Muscle measurement; Phantom; Sarcopenia
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