Density resolution in quantitative computed tomography of foam and lung

Med Phys. 1996 Oct;23(10):1697-708. doi: 10.1118/1.597757.


This study was performed to assess density resolution in quantitative computed tomography (CT) of foam and lung. Density resolution, a measure for the ability to discriminate materials of different density in a CT number histogram, is normally determined by quantum noise. In a cellular solid, variations in mass in the volumes sampled by CT cause an additional degradation of density resolution by the linear partial volume effect. The sample volume, which is directly related to spatial resolution, can be varied by choosing different section thicknesses and reconstruction filters. Several polyethene (PE) foams, as simple models of lung tissue, and five patients were investigated using various sample volumes. For the uniform PE foams, density resolution could be directly determined as the full width at half maximum of CT number histograms. Density resolution for foams with cell sizes of 0.8-1.5 mm was dominated by effects caused by the limited sample size, not by quantum noise. The relative magnitudes of density resolution could roughly be explained with a model for a hypothetic random cellular solid. Since lungs are not of uniform density, analysis of patient data was more complicated. A combined convolution least-squares fit procedure, together with information obtained in the studies of foam, were used to determine density resolution in lung studies. Density resolution, both for foams and lung, was strongly dependent on sample volume, and was quite poor for thin sections and sharp filters. Consequently, histogram-shape related parameters are sensitive to the spatial resolution chosen on CT. Thin section densitometry, using a 1-mm section with a standard or high resolution filter, is not recommended except in determining average density. When using thicker sections, an in-plane spatial resolution similar to section thickness is advised.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Models, Structural*
  • Phantoms, Imaging*
  • Polyethylenes*
  • Polymethacrylic Acids
  • Quantum Theory
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*


  • Polyethylenes
  • Polymethacrylic Acids