A scanner-specific framework for simulating CT images with tube current modulation.
Although tube current modulation (TCM) is routinely implemented in modern computed tomography (CT) scans, no existing CT simulator is capable of generating realistic images with TCM. The goal of this study was to develop such a framework to (1) facilitate patient-specific optimization of TCM parameters and (2) enable future virtual imaging trials (VITs) with more clinically realistic image quality and x-ray flux distributions. The framework was created by developing a TCM module and integrating it with an existing CT simulator (DukeSim). The developed module utilizes scanner-calibrated TCM parameters and two localizer radiographs to compute the mAs for each simulated CT projection. This simulation pipeline was validated in two parts. First, DukeSim was validated in the context of a commercial scanner with TCM (SOMATOM Force, Siemens Healthineers) by imaging a physical CT phantom (Mercury, Sun Nuclear) and its computational analogue. Second, the TCM module was validated by imaging a computational anthropomorphic phantom (ATOM, CIRS) using DukeSim with real and module-generated TCM profiles. The validation demonstrated DukeSim's realism in terms of noise magnitude, noise texture, spatial resolution, and image contrast (with average differences of 0.38%, 6.31%, 0.43%, and -9 HU, respectively). It also demonstrated the TCM module's realism in terms of projection-level mAs and resulting noise magnitude (2.86% and -2.60%, respectively). Finally, the framework was applied to a pilot VIT simulating images of three computational anthropomorphic phantoms (XCAT, with body mass indices (BMIs) of 24.3, 28.2, and 33.0) under five different TCM settings. The optimal TCM for each phantom was characterized based on various criteria, such as minimizing mAs or maximizing image quality. 'Very Weak' TCM minimized noise for the 24.3 BMI phantom, while 'Very Strong' TCM minimized noise for the 33.0 BMI phantom. This illustrates the utility of the developed framework for future optimization studies of TCM parameters and, more broadly, large-scale VITs with scanner-specific TCM.
Jadick, G; Abadi, E; Harrawood, B; Sharma, S; Segars, WP; Samei, E
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