Evaluating the spine in patients with metal orthopedic hardware is challenging. Although the effectiveness of conventional computed tomography (CT) can be limited by severe beam-hardening artifacts, the evolution of multichannel CT in recent years has made available new techniques that can help minimize these artifacts. Multichannel CT allows faster scanning times, resulting in reduced motion artifacts; thinner sections, with which it is possible to create a scanned volume of isotropic voxels with equivalent image resolution in all planes; and the generation of a higher x-ray tube current, which may result in better penetration of metal hardware and reduction of artifacts. Although 140 kVp and high milliamperage-second exposure are recommended for imaging patients with hardware, caution should always be exercised, particularly in children, young adults, and patients undergoing multiple examinations. The acquisition of multiplanar reformatted images in the axial, sagittal, coronal, and oblique planes and of three-dimensional volume-rendered images optimizes image interpretation. Wide window settings are best for reviewing images when hardware is present. The integrity of hardware is best assessed with multiplanar average intensity projection. Soft-tissue structures are best visualized by interactively varying the window width and level settings. Implementation of these techniques can yield diagnostic-quality images and aid in patient treatment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging