Why do commercial CT scanners still employ traditional, filtered back-projection for image reconstruction?

Inverse Probl. 2009 Jan 1;25(12):1230009. doi: 10.1088/0266-5611/25/12/123009.


Despite major advances in x-ray sources, detector arrays, gantry mechanical design and especially computer performance, one component of computed tomography (CT) scanners has remained virtually constant for the past 25 years-the reconstruction algorithm. Fundamental advances have been made in the solution of inverse problems, especially tomographic reconstruction, but these works have not been translated into clinical and related practice. The reasons are not obvious and seldom discussed. This review seeks to examine the reasons for this discrepancy and provides recommendations on how it can be resolved. We take the example of field of compressive sensing (CS), summarizing this new area of research from the eyes of practical medical physicists and explaining the disconnection between theoretical and application-oriented research. Using a few issues specific to CT, which engineers have addressed in very specific ways, we try to distill the mathematical problem underlying each of these issues with the hope of demonstrating that there are interesting mathematical problems of general importance that can result from in depth analysis of specific issues. We then sketch some unconventional CT-imaging designs that have the potential to impact on CT applications, if the link between applied mathematicians and engineers/physicists were stronger. Finally, we close with some observations on how the link could be strengthened. There is, we believe, an important opportunity to rapidly improve the performance of CT and related tomographic imaging techniques by addressing these issues.