A GPU tool for efficient, accurate, and realistic simulation of cone beam CT projections

Xun Jia, Hao Yan, Laura Cerviño, Michael Folkerts, Steve B. Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Purpose: Simulation of x-ray projection images plays an important role in cone beam CT (CBCT) related research projects, such as the design of reconstruction algorithms or scanners. A projection image contains primary signal, scatter signal, and noise. It is computationally demanding to perform accurate and realistic computations for all of these components. In this work, the authors develop a package on graphics processing unit (GPU), called gDRR, for the accurate and efficient computations of x-ray projection images in CBCT under clinically realistic conditions. Methods: The primary signal is computed by a trilinear ray-tracing algorithm. A Monte Carlo (MC) simulation is then performed, yielding the primary signal and the scatter signal, both with noise. A denoising process specifically designed for Poisson noise removal is applied to obtain a smooth scatter signal. The noise component is then obtained by combining the difference between the MC primary and the ray-tracing primary signals, and the difference between the MC simulated scatter and the denoised scatter signals. Finally, a calibration step converts the calculated noise signal into a realistic one by scaling its amplitude according to a specified mAs level. The computations of gDRR include a number of realistic features, e.g., a bowtie filter, a polyenergetic spectrum, and detector response. The implementation is fine-tuned for a GPU platform to yield high computational efficiency. Results: For a typical CBCT projection with a polyenergetic spectrum, the calculation time for the primary signal using the ray-tracing algorithms is 1.2-2.3 s, while the MC simulations take 28.1-95.3 s, depending on the voxel size. Computation time for all other steps is negligible. The ray-tracing primary signal matches well with the primary part of the MC simulation result. The MC simulated scatter signal using gDRR is in agreement with EGSnrc results with a relative difference of 3.8. A noise calibration process is conducted to calibrate gDRR against a real CBCT scanner. The calculated projections are accurate and realistic, such that beam-hardening artifacts and scatter artifacts can be reproduced using the simulated projections. The noise amplitudes in the CBCT images reconstructed from the simulated projections also agree with those in the measured images at corresponding mAs levels. Conclusions: A GPU computational tool, gDRR, has been developed for the accurate and efficient simulations of x-ray projections of CBCT with realistic configurations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7368-7378
Number of pages11
JournalMedical physics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • CBCT projection
  • GPU
  • Monte Carlo
  • digitally reconstructed radiograph

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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