Axial or Helical? Considerations for wide collimation CT scanners capable of volumetric imaging in both modes

Jack W. Lambert, Elizabeth D. Phillips, Javier E. Villanueva-Meyer, Lorenzo Nardo, Luca Facchetti, Robert G. Gould

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose: To determine whether axial or helical mode is more appropriate for a 16 cm collimation CT scanner capable of step-and-shoot volumetric axial coverage, in terms of radiation dose, image quality, and scan duration. Methods: All scans were performed with a Revolution CT (GE Healthcare) operating at 120 kV and 100 mAs. Using calibrated optically stimulated luminescence detectors, radiation dose along the axial scan profile was evaluated at the isocenter, including the overlap region between two axial sections. This overlap region measures 3 cm in the z-axis at the isocenter and is required to obtain sufficient projection data from the relatively large cone-beam angles. Using an image quality phantom (Gammex Model 464), spatial resolution, CT number uniformity, image noise, and low contrast detectability (LCD) were evaluated under five different conditions: in the middle of a helical acquisition, in the middle of a 16 cm axial section, at both ends of an axial section and in the overlap region between two axial sections. Scan durations and dose length products (DLP) were recorded for prescribed scan lengths of 2.5-100 cm. Results: The overlap region between two axial sections received a dose 83% higher than the single-exposure region at the isocenter. Within a single axial section, the dose at the anode end was 37% less than at the cathode end due to the anode heel effect. Image noise ranged from a low of 13 HU for the cathode end of an axial section up to 14.7 HU for the anode end (P < 0.001). The LCD was at lower at the anode end of the axial section compared to both the cathode end (P < 0.05) and the overlap location (P < 0.02). The spatial resolution and CT number uniformity were consistent among all conditions. Scan durations were shorter (0.28 s) for the axial mode compared to the helical mode at scan lengths ≤ 16 cm, and longer at scan lengths ≥ 16 cm where more than one table position was required, up to a difference of 13.9 s for a the 100 cm scan length (3.8 s for helical compared to 17.6 s for axial). DLPs were consistent between scan modes; slightly lower in axial mode at shorter scan lengths due to helical overranging, and slightly higher in axial mode at longer scan lengths due to the axial overlap regions. Conclusions: To ensure the most consistent radiation dose and image quality along the scan length, we recommend helical mode for scans longer than the 16 cm coverage of a single axial section. For scan lengths ≤ 16 cm, axial scanning is the most practical option, with a shorter scan duration and higher dose efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5718-5725
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Physics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • 256 detector row
  • axial mode
  • image quality
  • radiation dose
  • step-and-shoot

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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