Respiratory motion during free-breathing computed tomography (CT) scan may cause significant errors in target definition for tumors in the thorax and upper abdomen. A four-dimensional (4D) CT technique has been widely used for treatment simulation of thoracic and abdominal cancer radiotherapy. The current 4D CT techniques require retrospective sorting of the reconstructed CT slices oversampled at the same couch position. Most sorting methods depend on external surrogates of respiratory motion recorded by extra instruments. However, respiratory signals obtained from these external surrogates may not always accurately represent the internal target motion, especially when irregular breathing patterns occur. We have proposed a new sorting method based on multiple internal anatomical features for multi-slice CT scan acquired in the cine mode. Four features are analyzed in this study, including the air content, lung area, lung density and body area. We use a measure called spatial coherence to select the optimal internal feature at each couch position and to generate the respiratory signals for 4D CT sorting. The proposed method has been evaluated for ten cancer patients (eight with thoracic cancer and two with abdominal cancer). For nine patients, the respiratory signals generated from the combined internal features are well correlated to those from external surrogates recorded by the real-time position management (RPM) system (average correlation: 0.95 0.02), which is better than any individual internal measures at 95% confidence level. For these nine patients, the 4D CT images sorted by the combined internal features are almost identical to those sorted by the RPM signal. For one patient with an irregular breathing pattern, the respiratory signals given by the combined internal features do not correlate well with those from RPM (correlation: 0.68 0.42). In this case, the 4D CT image sorted by our method presents fewer artifacts than that from the RPM signal. Our 4D CT internal sorting method eliminates the need of externally recorded surrogates of respiratory motion. It is an automatic, accurate, robust, cost efficient and yet simple method and therefore can be readily implemented in clinical settings.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging