Variability of surface and center position radiation dose in MDCT: Monte Carlo simulations using CTDI and anthropomorphic phantoms

Di Zhang, Ali S. Savandi, John J. Demarco, Chris H. Cagnon, Erin Angel, Adam C. Turner, Dianna D. Cody, Donna M. Stevens, Andrew N. Primak, Cynthia H. McCollough, Michael F. McNitt-Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The larger coverage afforded by wider z -axis beams in multidetector CT (MDCT) creates larger cone angles and greater beam divergence, which results in substantial surface dose variation for helical and contiguous axial scans. This study evaluates the variation of absorbed radiation dose in both cylindrical and anthropomorphic phantoms when performing helical or contiguous axial scans. The approach used here was to perform Monte Carlo simulations of a 64 slice MDCT. Simulations were performed with different radiation profiles (simulated beam widths) for a given collimation setting (nominal beam width) and for different pitch values and tube start angles. The magnitude of variation at the surface was evaluated under four different conditions: (a) a homogeneous CTDI phantom with different combinations of pitch and simulated beam widths, (b) a heterogeneous anthropomorphic phantom with one measured beam collimation and various pitch values, (c) a homogeneous CTDI phantom with fixed beam collimation and pitch, but with different tube start angles, and (d) pitch values that should minimize variations of surface dose-evaluated for both homogeneous and heterogeneous phantoms. For the CTDI phantom simulations, peripheral dose patterns showed variation with percent ripple as high as 65% when pitch is 1.5 and simulated beam width is equal to the nominal collimation. For the anterior surface dose on an anthropomorphic phantom, the percent ripple was as high as 40% when the pitch is 1.5 and simulated beam width is equal to the measured beam width. Low pitch values were shown to cause beam overlaps which created new peaks. Different x-ray tube start angles create shifts of the peripheral dose profiles. The start angle simulations showed that for a given table position, the surface dose could vary dramatically with minimum values that were 40% of the peak when all conditions are held constant except for the start angle. The last group of simulations showed that an "ideal" pitch value can be determined which reduces surface dose variations, but this pitch value must take into account the measured beam width. These results reveal the complexity of estimating surface dose and demonstrate a range of dose variability at surface positions for both homogeneous cylindrical and heterogeneous anthropomorphic phantoms. These findings have potential implications for small-sized dosimeter measurements in phantoms, such as with TLDs or small Farmer chambers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1025-1038
Number of pages14
JournalMedical physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009


  • CT
  • Radiation dose

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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