The modulation transfer function and signal-to-noise ratio of different digital filters: a technical approach

Dentomaxillofac Radiol. 2011 May;40(4):222-9. doi: 10.1259/dmfr/33029984.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to illustrate the influence of digital filters on the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and modulation transfer function (MTF) of digital images. The article will address image pre-processing that may be beneficial for the production of clinically useful digital radiographs with lower radiation dose.

Methods: Three filters, an arithmetic mean filter, a median filter and a Gaussian filter (standard deviation (SD) = 0.4), with kernel sizes of 3 × 3 pixels and 5 × 5 pixels were tested. Synthetic images with exactly increasing amounts of Gaussian noise were created to gather linear regression of SNR before and after application of digital filters. Artificial stripe patterns with defined amounts of line pairs per millimetre were used to calculate MTF before and after the application of the digital filters.

Results: The Gaussian filter with a 5 × 5 kernel size caused the highest noise suppression (SNR increased from 2.22, measured in the synthetic image, to 11.31 in the filtered image). The smallest noise reduction was found with the 3 × 3 median filter. The application of the median filters resulted in no changes in MTF at the different resolutions but did result in the deletion of smaller structures. The 5 × 5 Gaussian filter and the 5 × 5 arithmetic mean filter showed the strongest changes of MTF.

Conclusions: The application of digital filters can improve the SNR of a digital sensor; however, MTF can be adversely affected. As such, imaging systems should not be judged solely on their quoted spatial resolutions because pre-processing may influence image quality.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Artifacts
  • Filtration / instrumentation*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / instrumentation
  • Linear Models
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement / methods
  • Radiography, Dental, Digital / instrumentation*