Whole-body CT in polytrauma patients: effect of arm positioning on thoracic and abdominal image quality

Karlo, Christoph ; Gnannt, Ralph ; Frauenfelder, Thomas ; Leschka, Sebastian ; Brüesch, Martin ; Wanner, Guido ; Alkadhi, Hatem

In: Emergency Radiology, 2011, vol. 18, no. 4, p. 285-293

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    The purpose of this study is to assess the influence of different arm positioning techniques on thoracic and abdominal image quality and radiation dose of whole-body trauma CT (wbCT). One hundred and fifty polytrauma patients (104 male, mean age 47 ± 19) underwent wbCT with arms elevated above the head (group A, n = 50), alongside the abdomen (group B, n = 50), and on a pillow ventrally to the chest with both arms flexed (group C, n = 50). Two blinded, independent observers measured image noise and rated image quality (scores 1-3) of the liver, aorta, spleen, spine, and lower lungs. Radiation dose parameters were noted, and the abdomens' anterior-posterior diameter and scan lengths were measured. Interreader agreements for image noise (r = 0.86; p < 0.001) and subjective image quality (k = 0.71-0.84) were good. Noise was lower (p < 0.05), image quality of the liver, aorta, spleen, and spine was higher, and radiation dose lower in group A than in groups B and C (p < 0.001, each). Image quality of the spleen, liver, and aorta were higher in group C than in group B (p < 0.05, each). No significant differences in scan length (p = 0.61) were found among groups. Abdominal anterior-posterior diameter correlated significantly with noise (r = 0.82; p < 0.01) and dose (r = 0.47; p < 0.001). Estimated effective radiation doses were significantly (p < 0.001) higher in groups B (21.2mSv) and C (21.9mSv) as compared to A (16.1mSv). In wbCT for polytrauma patients, positioning of the arms above the head results in better image quality and lower radiation dose. Placing the flexed arms on a large pillow ventrally to the chest significantly improves image quality as compared to positioning alongside the abdomen