Original Research

An audit of the adequacy of contrast enhancement in CT pulmonary angiograms in a South African tertiary academic hospital setting

Derik J. Basson, Halvani Moodley
South African Journal of Radiology | Vol 26, No 1 | a2350 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajr.v26i1.2350 | © 2022 Derik Jacobus Basson, Halvani Moodley | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 November 2021 | Published: 24 March 2022

About the author(s)

Derik J. Basson, Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Halvani Moodley, Department of Radiology, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa; and, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Undiagnosed pulmonary embolism carries high mortality and morbidity. Computed tomography pulmonary angiogram (CTPA) is the diagnostic method of choice for accurate diagnosis. Inadequate contrast opacification is the second most common cause of indeterminate CTPAs.

Objectives: Audit the adequacy of CTPA contrast enhancement and determine whether inadequate enhancement is affected by the size and site of the intravenous cannula, flow rate, contrast volume, contrast leakage and day shift versus after hours services.

Method: Retrospective and prospective audits of the adequacy of contrast enhancement of CTPAs at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital were conducted using the Royal College of Radiologists guidelines (≤ 11% of studies with < 210 HU). Protocol variables were collected prospectively from questionnaires completed by radiographers performing the CTPAs. Adequate versus inadequate groups were analysed.

Results: A total of 63 (retrospective) and 130 (prospective) patients were included with inadequate contrast enhancement rates of 19% (12/63) and 20.8% (27/130), respectively. The majority of CTPAs were performed during the day 56.2% (73/130) with a 20G cannula 66.2% (86/130) in the forearm 33.8% (44/130) injecting 100 mL – 120 mL contrast 43.1% (56/130) at 3 mL/s 63.1% (82/130). The median flow rate (3 mL/s) and contrast volume (80 mL) were identical in both adequate and inadequate groups, while the remaining variables showed no statistical difference.

Conclusion: The rate of inadequately enhanced CTPAs in this study was high. The protocol variables did not have a significant influence on the rate of inadequate enhancement. Further research, particularly using flow rates > 4 mL/s, is required for protocol optimisation.


contrast enhancement; audit; CT pulmonary angiogram; pulmonary embolism; flow rate


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