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Motion artifacts are common in patient four-dimensional computed tomography (4DCT) images, leading to an ill-defined tumor volume with large variations for radiotherapy treatment and a poor foundation with low imaging fidelity for studying respiratory motion. The authors developed a method to estimate 4DCT image quality by establishing a correlation between the severity of motion artifacts in 4DCT images and the periodicity of the corresponding 1D respiratory waveform (1DRW) used for phase binning in 4DCT reconstruction.

Discrete Fourier transformation (DFT) was applied to analyze 1DRW periodicity. The breathing periodicity index (BPI) was defined as the sum of the largest five Fourier coefficients, ranging from 0 to 1. Distortional motion artifacts (excluding blurring) of cine-scan 4DCT at the junctions of adjacent couch positions around the diaphragm were classified in three categories: incomplete, overlapping, and duplicate anatomies. To quantify these artifacts, discontinuity of the diaphragm at the junctions was measured in distance and averaged along six directions in three orthogonal views. Artifacts per junction (APJ) across the entire diaphragm were calculated in each breathing phase and phase-averaged , defined as motion-artifact severity (MAS), was obtained for each patient. To make MAS independent of patient-specific motion amplitude, two new MAS quantities were defined: MAS is normalized to the maximum diaphragmatic displacement and MAS is normalized to the mean diaphragmatic velocity (the breathing period was obtained from DFT analysis of 1DRW). Twenty-six patients’ free-breathing 4DCT images and corresponding 1DRW data were studied.

Higher APJ values were found around midventilation and full inhalation while the lowest APJ values were around full exhalation. The distribution of MAS is close to Poisson distribution with a mean of 2.2 mm. The BPI among the 26 patients was calculated with a value ranging from 0.25 to 0.93. The DFT calculation was within 3 s per 1DRW. Correlations were found between 1DRW periodicity and 4DCT artifact severity: −0.71 for MAS and −0.73 for MAS . A BPI greater than 0.85 in a 1DRW suggests minimal motion artifacts in the corresponding 4DCT images.

The breathing periodicity index and motion-artifact severity index are introduced to assess the relationship between 1DRW and 4DCT. A correlation between 1DRW periodicity and 4DCT artifact severity has been established. The 1DRW periodicity provides a rapid means to estimate 4DCT image quality. The rapid 1DRW analysis and the correlative relationship can be applied prospectively to identify irregular breathers as candidates for breath coaching prior to 4DCT scan and retrospectively to select high-quality 4DCT images for clinical motion-management research.


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