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Calorimetry in Computed Tomography Beams



Heather H. Chen-Mayer, Ronald Tosh, Fred B. Bateman, Paul Bergstrom, Brian E. Zimmerman


A portable calorimeter for direct realization of absorbed dose in medical computed tomography (CT) procedures was constructed and tested in a positron emission tomography (PET) CT scanner. The calorimeter consists of two small thermistors embedded in a polystyrene (PS) cylindrical "core" (1.5 cm diameter) that can be inserted into a cylindrical high-density polyethylene (HDPE) phantom (30 cm diameter). The cylindrical design of core and phantom allows coaxial alignment of the system with the scanner rotation axis, which is necessary to minimize variations in dose that would otherwise occur as the X-ray source is rotated during scanning operations. The core can be replaced by a cylindrical ionization chamber for comparing dose measurement results. Measurements using the core and a calibrated thimble ionization chamber were carried out in a beam of 6 MV X-rays from a clinical accelerator and in 120 kV X-rays from a CT scanner. Doses obtained from the calorimeter and chamber in the 6 MV beam exhibited good agreement over a range of dose rates from 0.8 Gy/min to 4 Gy/min, with negligible excess heat. For the CT beam, as anticipated for these X-ray energies, the calorimeter response was complicated by excess heat from device components. Analyses done in the frequency domain and time domain indicated that excess heat increased calorimetric temperature rise by a factor of about 15. The calorimeter's response was dominated by dose to the thermistor, which contains high-atomic-number elements. Therefore, for future construction of calorimeters for CT beams, lower-atomic-number temperature sensors will be needed. These results serve as a guide for future alternative design of calorimeters toward a calorimetry absorbed dose standard for diagnostic CT.
Journal of Research (NIST JRES) -


absorbed dose, calorimeter, CT dose, medium energy X-rays, polystyrene, thermistor


Chen-Mayer, H. , Tosh, R. , Bateman, F. , Bergstrom, P. and Zimmerman, B. (2022), Calorimetry in Computed Tomography Beams, Journal of Research (NIST JRES), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online],, (Accessed June 18, 2024)


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Created March 10, 2022, Updated November 29, 2022