To reduce radiation dose in CT imaging, the statistical model based iterative reconstruction (MBIR) method has been introduced for clinical use. Based on the principle of MBIR and its nonlinear nature, the noise performance of MBIR is expected to be different from that of the well-understood filtered backprojection (FBP) reconstruction method. The purpose of this work is to experimentally assess the unique noise characteristics of MBIR using a state-of-the-art clinical CT system.
Three physical phantoms, including a water cylinder and two pediatric head phantoms, were scanned in axial scanning mode using a 64-slice CT scanner (Discovery CT750 HD, GE Healthcare, Waukesha, WI) at seven different mAs levels (5, 12.5, 25, 50, 100, 200, 300). At each mAs level, each phantom was repeatedly scanned 50 times to generate an image ensemble for noise analysis. Both the FBP method with a standard kernel and the MBIR method (Veo®, GE Healthcare, Waukesha, WI) were used for CT image reconstruction. Three-dimensional (3D) noise power spectrum (NPS), two-dimensional (2D) NPS, and zero-dimensional NPS (noise variance) were assessed both globally and locally. Noise magnitude, noise spatial correlation, noise spatial uniformity and their dose dependence were examined for the two reconstruction methods.
(1) At each dose level and at each frequency, the magnitude of the NPS of MBIR was smaller than that of FBP. (2) While the shape of the NPS of FBP was dose-independent, the shape of the NPS of MBIR was strongly dose-dependent; lower dose lead to a “redder” NPS with a lower mean frequency value. (3) The noise standard deviation (σ) of MBIR and dose were found to be related through a power law of σ ∝ (dose)−β with the component β ≈ 0.25, which violated the classical σ ∝ (dose)−0.5 power law in FBP. (4) With MBIR, noise reduction was most prominent for thin image slices. (5) MBIR lead to better noise spatial uniformity when compared with FBP. (6) A composite image generated from two MBIR images acquired at two different dose levels (D1 and D2) demonstrated lower noise than that of an image acquired at a dose level of D1+D2.
The noise characteristics of the MBIR method are significantly different from those of the FBP method. The well known tradeoff relationship between CT image noise and radiation dose has been modified by MBIR to establish a more gradual dependence of noise on dose. Additionally, some other CT noise properties that had been well understood based on the linear system theory have also been altered by MBIR. Clinical CT scan protocols that had been optimized based on the classical CT noise properties need to be carefully re-evaluated for systems equipped with MBIR in order to maximize the method's potential clinical benefits in dose reduction and/or in CT image quality improvement.
This work is partially supported by a NIH Grant (Grant No. R01CA169331). The authors would like to thank Dr. Michael Speidel for providing the pediatric phantoms and John Garrett, Stephen Brunner, and Adam Budde for their editorial assistances. Finally, the authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments to improve the quality of this paper.
II. METHODS AND MATERIALS
II.A. Data acquisition, image reconstruction, and phantoms
II.B. Multidimensional noise power spectrum analysis
II.C. Characterization of noise spatial uniformity
II.D. Dependence of noise performance on slice thickness
II.E. Characterization of noise properties of composite images
III.A. Image comparison
III.B. Three-dimensional noise power spectrum comparison
III.C. Two-dimensional noise power spectrum comparison
III.D. Zero-dimensional noise power spectrum comparison
III.E. Dependence of noise performance on slice thickness
III.F. Noise spatial uniformity comparison
III.G. Breakdown of the NPS composite law
IV.A. Empirical explanation of experimental results
IV.B. Implications for CT protocol optimization
- Medical image noise
- Medical imaging
- Computed tomography
- Medical image reconstruction
- Image reconstruction
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