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To develop and test a method to quantify the effect of dimensionality on the noise in energy selective x-ray imaging.

The Cramèr-Rao lower bound (CRLB), a universal lower limit of the covariance of any unbiased estimator, is used to quantify the noise. It is shown that increasing dimensionality always increases, or at best leaves the same, the variance. An analytic formula for the increase in variance in an energy selective x-ray system is derived. The formula is used to gain insight into the dependence of the increase in variance on the properties of the additional basis functions, the measurement noise covariance, and the source spectrum. The formula is also used with computer simulations to quantify the dependence of the additional variance on these factors. Simulated images of an object with three materials are used to demonstrate the trade-off of increased information with dimensionality and noise. The images are computed from energy selective data with a maximum likelihood estimator.

The increase in variance depends most importantly on the dimension and on the properties of the additional basis functions. With the attenuation coefficients of cortical bone, soft tissue, and adipose tissue as the basis functions, the increase in variance of the bone component from two to three dimensions is 1.4 × 103. With the soft tissue component, it is 2.7 × 104. If the attenuation coefficient of a high atomic number contrast agent is used as the third basis function, there is only a slight increase in the variance from two to three basis functions, 1.03 and 7.4 for the bone and soft tissue components, respectively. The changes in spectrum shape with beam hardening also have a substantial effect. They increase the variance by a factor of approximately 200 for the bone component and 220 for the soft tissue component as the soft tissue object thickness increases from 1 to 30 cm. Decreasing the energy resolution of the detectors increases the variance of the bone component markedly with three dimension processing, approximately a factor of 25 as the resolution decreases from 100 to 3 bins. The increase with two dimension processing for adipose tissue is a factor of two and with the contrast agent as the third material for two or three dimensions is also a factor of two for both components. The simulated images show that a maximum likelihood estimator can be used to process energy selective x-ray data to produce images with noise close to the CRLB.

The method presented can be used to compute the effects of the object attenuation coefficients and the x-ray system properties on the relationship of dimensionality and noise in energy selective x-ray imaging systems.


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