Low-dose 4D cardiac imaging in small animals using dual source micro-CT.
Micro-CT is widely used in preclinical studies, generating substantial interest in extending its capabilities in functional imaging applications such as blood perfusion and cardiac function. However, imaging cardiac structure and function in mice is challenging due to their small size and rapid heart rate. To overcome these challenges, we propose and compare improvements on two strategies for cardiac gating in dual-source, preclinical micro-CT: fast prospective gating (PG) and uncorrelated retrospective gating (RG). These sampling strategies combined with a sophisticated iterative image reconstruction algorithm provide faster acquisitions and high image quality in low-dose 4D (i.e. 3D + Time) cardiac micro-CT. Fast PG is performed under continuous subject rotation which results in interleaved projection angles between cardiac phases. Thus, fast PG provides a well-sampled temporal average image for use as a prior in iterative reconstruction. Uncorrelated RG incorporates random delays during sampling to prevent correlations between heart rate and sampling rate. We have performed both simulations and animal studies to validate these new sampling protocols. Sampling times for 1000 projections using fast PG and RG were 2 and 3 min, respectively, and the total dose was 170 mGy each. Reconstructions were performed using a 4D iterative reconstruction technique based on the split Bregman method. To examine undersampling robustness, subsets of 500 and 250 projections were also used for reconstruction. Both sampling strategies in conjunction with our iterative reconstruction method are capable of resolving cardiac phases and provide high image quality. In general, for equal numbers of projections, fast PG shows fewer errors than RG and is more robust to undersampling. Our results indicate that only 1000-projection based reconstruction with fast PG satisfies a 5% error criterion in left ventricular volume estimation. These methods promise low-dose imaging with a wide range of preclinical applications in cardiac imaging.
Holbrook, M; Clark, DP; Badea, CT
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