Purpose: Severe artifacts in kilovoltage-CT simulation images caused by large metallic implants can significantly degrade the conspicuity and apparent CT Hounsfield number of targets and anatomic structures, jeopardize the confidence of anatomical segmentation, and introduce inaccuracies into the radiation therapy treatment planning process. This study evaluated the performance of the first commercial orthopedic metal artifact reduction function (O-MAR) for radiation therapy, and investigated its clinical applications in treatment planning.
Methods: Both phantom and clinical data were used for the evaluation. The CIRS electron density phantom with known physical (and electron) density plugs and removable titanium implants was scanned on a Philips Brilliance Big Bore 16-slice CT simulator. The CT Hounsfield numbers of density plugs on both uncorrected and O-MAR corrected images were compared. Treatment planning accuracy was evaluated by comparing simulated dose distributions computed using the true density images, uncorrected images, and O-MAR corrected images. Ten CT image sets of patients with large hip implants were processed with the O-MAR function and evaluated by two radiation oncologists using a five-point score for overall image quality, anatomical conspicuity, and CT Hounsfield number accuracy. By utilizing the same structure contours delineated from the O-MAR corrected images, clinical IMRT treatment plans for five patients were computed on the uncorrected and O-MAR corrected images, respectively, and compared.
Results: Results of the phantom study indicated that CT Hounsfield number accuracy and noise were improved on the O-MAR corrected images, especially for images with bilateral metal implants. The γ pass rates of the simulated dose distributions computed on the uncorrected and O-MAR corrected images referenced to those of the true densities were higher than 99.9% (even when using 1% and 3 mm distance-to-agreement criterion), suggesting that dose distributions were clinically identical. In all patient cases, radiation oncologists rated O-MAR corrected images as higher quality. Formerly obscured critical structures were able to be visualized. The overall image quality and the conspicuity in critical organs were significantly improved compared with the uncorrected images: overall quality score (1.35 vs 3.25, P = 0.0022); bladder (2.15 vs 3.7, P = 0.0023); prostate and seminal vesicles∕vagina (1.3 vs 3.275, P = 0.0020); rectum (2.8 vs 3.9, P = 0.0021). The noise levels of the selected ROIs were reduced from 93.7 to 38.2 HU. On most cases (8∕10), the average CT Hounsfield numbers of the prostate∕vagina on the O-MAR corrected images were closer to the referenced value (41.2 HU, an average measured from patients without metal implants) than those on the uncorrected images. High γ pass rates of the five IMRT dose distribution pairs indicated that the dose distributions were not significantly affected by the CT image improvements.
Conclusions: Overall, this study indicated that the O-MAR function can remarkably reduce metal artifacts and improve both CT Hounsfield number accuracy and target and critical structure visualization. Although there was no significant impact of the O-MAR algorithm on the calculated dose distributions, we suggest that O-MAR corrected images are more suitable for the entire treatment planning process by offering better anatomical structure visualization, improving radiation oncologists' confidence in target delineation, and by avoiding subjective density overrides of artifact regions on uncorrected images.