Purpose: While modern clinical CT scanners under normal circumstances produce high quality images, severe artifacts degrade the image quality and the diagnostic value if metal prostheses or other metal objects are present in the field of measurement. Standard methods for metal artifact reduction (MAR) replace those parts of the projection data that are affected by metal (the so-called metal trace or metal shadow) by interpolation. However, while sinogram interpolation methods efficiently remove metal artifacts, new artifacts are often introduced, as interpolation cannot completely recover the information from the metal trace. The purpose of this work is to introduce a generalized normalization technique for MAR, allowing for efficient reduction of metal artifacts while adding almost no new ones. The method presented is compared to a standard MAR method, as well as MAR using simple length normalization.
Methods: In the first step, metal is segmented in the image domain by thresholding. A 3D forward projection identifies the metal trace in the original projections. Before interpolation, the projections are normalized based on a 3D forward projection of a prior image. This prior image is obtained, for example, by a multithreshold segmentation of the initial image. The original rawdata are divided by the projection data of the prior image and, after interpolation, denormalized again. Simulations and measurements are performed to compare normalized metal artifact reduction (NMAR) to standard MAR with linear interpolation and MAR based on simple length normalization.
Results: Promising results for clinical spiral cone-beam data are presented in this work. Included are patients with hip prostheses, dental fillings, and spine fixation, which were scanned at pitch values ranging from 0.9 to 3.2. Image quality is improved considerably, particularly for metal implants within bone structures or in their proximity. The improvements are evaluated by comparing profiles through images and sinograms for the different methods and by inspecting ROIs. NMAR outperforms both other methods in all cases. It reduces metal artifacts to a minimum, even close to metal regions. Even for patients with dental fillings, which cause most severe artifacts, satisfactory results are obtained with NMAR. In contrast to other methods, NMAR prevents the usual blurring of structures close to metal implants if the metal artifacts are moderate.
Conclusions: NMAR clearly outperforms the other methods for both moderate and severe artifacts. The proposed method reliably reduces metal artifacts from simulated as well as from clinical CT data. Computationally efficient and inexpensive compared to iterative methods, NMAR can be used as an additional step in any conventional sinogram inpainting-based MAR method.