Quantum noise properties of CT images with anatomical textured backgrounds across reconstruction algorithms: FBP and SAFIRE.
PURPOSE: Quantum noise properties of CT images are generally assessed using simple geometric phantoms with uniform backgrounds. Such phantoms may be inadequate when assessing nonlinear reconstruction or postprocessing algorithms. The purpose of this study was to design anatomically informed textured phantoms and use the phantoms to assess quantum noise properties across two clinically available reconstruction algorithms, filtered back projection (FBP) and sinogram affirmed iterative reconstruction (SAFIRE). METHODS: Two phantoms were designed to represent lung and soft-tissue textures. The lung phantom included intricate vessel-like structures along with embedded nodules (spherical, lobulated, and spiculated). The soft tissue phantom was designed based on a three-dimensional clustered lumpy background with included low-contrast lesions (spherical and anthropomorphic). The phantoms were built using rapid prototyping (3D printing) technology and, along with a uniform phantom of similar size, were imaged on a Siemens SOMATOM Definition Flash CT scanner and reconstructed with FBP and SAFIRE. Fifty repeated acquisitions were acquired for each background type and noise was assessed by estimating pixel-value statistics, such as standard deviation (i.e., noise magnitude), autocorrelation, and noise power spectrum. Noise stationarity was also assessed by examining the spatial distribution of noise magnitude. The noise properties were compared across background types and between the two reconstruction algorithms. RESULTS: In FBP and SAFIRE images, noise was globally nonstationary for all phantoms. In FBP images of all phantoms, and in SAFIRE images of the uniform phantom, noise appeared to be locally stationary (within a reasonably small region of interest). Noise was locally nonstationary in SAFIRE images of the textured phantoms with edge pixels showing higher noise magnitude compared to pixels in more homogenous regions. For pixels in uniform regions, noise magnitude was reduced by an average of 60% in SAFIRE images compared to FBP. However, for edge pixels, noise magnitude ranged from 20% higher to 40% lower in SAFIRE images compared to FBP. SAFIRE images of the lung phantom exhibited distinct regions with varying noise texture (i.e., noise autocorrelation/power spectra). CONCLUSIONS: Quantum noise properties observed in uniform phantoms may not be representative of those in actual patients for nonlinear reconstruction algorithms. Anatomical texture should be considered when evaluating the performance of CT systems that use such nonlinear algorithms.
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