Task-driven optimization of CT tube current modulation and regularization in model-based iterative reconstruction

Phys Med Biol. 2017 Jun 21;62(12):4777-4797. doi: 10.1088/1361-6560/aa6a97. Epub 2017 Mar 31.


Tube current modulation (TCM) is routinely adopted on diagnostic CT scanners for dose reduction. Conventional TCM strategies are generally designed for filtered-backprojection (FBP) reconstruction to satisfy simple image quality requirements based on noise. This work investigates TCM designs for model-based iterative reconstruction (MBIR) to achieve optimal imaging performance as determined by a task-based image quality metric. Additionally, regularization is an important aspect of MBIR that is jointly optimized with TCM, and includes both the regularization strength that controls overall smoothness as well as directional weights that permits control of the isotropy/anisotropy of the local noise and resolution properties. Initial investigations focus on a known imaging task at a single location in the image volume. The framework adopts Fourier and analytical approximations for fast estimation of the local noise power spectrum (NPS) and modulation transfer function (MTF)-each carrying dependencies on TCM and regularization. For the single location optimization, the local detectability index (d') of the specific task was directly adopted as the objective function. A covariance matrix adaptation evolution strategy (CMA-ES) algorithm was employed to identify the optimal combination of imaging parameters. Evaluations of both conventional and task-driven approaches were performed in an abdomen phantom for a mid-frequency discrimination task in the kidney. Among the conventional strategies, the TCM pattern optimal for FBP using a minimum variance criterion yielded a worse task-based performance compared to an unmodulated strategy when applied to MBIR. Moreover, task-driven TCM designs for MBIR were found to have the opposite behavior from conventional designs for FBP, with greater fluence assigned to the less attenuating views of the abdomen and less fluence to the more attenuating lateral views. Such TCM patterns exaggerate the intrinsic anisotropy of the MTF and NPS as a result of the data weighting in MBIR. Directional penalty design was found to reinforce the same trend. The task-driven approaches outperform conventional approaches, with the maximum improvement in d' of 13% given by the joint optimization of TCM and regularization. This work demonstrates that the TCM optimal for MBIR is distinct from conventional strategies proposed for FBP reconstruction and strategies optimal for FBP are suboptimal and may even reduce performance when applied to MBIR. The task-driven imaging framework offers a promising approach for optimizing acquisition and reconstruction for MBIR that can improve imaging performance and/or dose utilization beyond conventional imaging strategies.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Quality Control
  • Signal-To-Noise Ratio
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / instrumentation*