Academic Radiology

A Feasibility Study of Single-inhalation, Single-energy Xenon-enhanced CT for High-resolution Imaging of Regional Lung Ventilation in Humans

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Rationale and Objectives: The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility of single-inhalation xenon-enhanced computed tomography (XeCT) to provide clinically practical, high-resolution pulmonary ventilation imaging to clinics with access to only a single-energy computed tomography scanner, and to reduce the subject's overall exposure to xenon by utilizing a higher (70%) concentration for a much shorter time than has been employed in prior studies. Materials and Methods: We conducted an institutional review board-approved prospective feasibility study of XeCT for 15 patients undergoing thoracic radiotherapy. For XeCT, we acquired two breath-hold single-energy computed tomography images of the entire lung with a single inhalation each of 100% oxygen and a mixture of 70% xenon and 30% oxygen, respectively. A video biofeedback system for coached patient breathing was used to achieve reproducible breath holds. We assessed the technical success of XeCT acquisition and side effects. We then used deformable image registration to align the breath-hold images with each other to accurately subtract them, producing a map of lung xenon distribution. Additionally, we acquired ventilation single-photon emission computed tomography-computed tomography (V-SPECT-CT) images for 11 of the 15 patients. For a comparative analysis, we partitioned each lung into 12 sectors, calculated the xenon concentration from the Hounsfield unit enhancement in each sector, and then correlated this with the corresponding V-SPECT-CT counts. Results: XeCT scans were tolerated well overall, with a mild (grade 1) dizziness as the only side effect in 5 of the 15 patients. Technical failures in five patients occurred because of inaccurate breathing synchronization with xenon gas delivery, leaving seven patients analyzable for XeCT and single-photon emission computed tomography correlation. Sector-wise correlations were strong (Spearman coefficient >0.75, Pearson coefficient >0.65, P value <.002) for two patients for whom ventilation deficits were visibly pronounced in both scans. Correlations were nonsignificant for the remaining five who had more homogeneous XeCT ventilation maps, as well as strong V-SPECT-CT imaging artifacts attributable to airway deposition of the aerosolized imaging agent. Qualitatively, XeCT demonstrated higher resolution and no central airway deposition artifacts compared to V-SPECT-CT. Conclusions: In this pilot study, single-breath XeCT ventilation imaging was generally feasible for patients undergoing thoracic radiotherapy, using an imaging protocol that is clinically practical and potentially widely available. In the future, the xenon delivery failures can be addressed by straightforward technical improvements to the patient biofeedback coaching system.