Purpose: To improve the image contrast-to-noise (CNR) ratio for low-Z target megavoltage cone-beam CT (MV CBCT) using a statistical projection noise suppression algorithm based on the penalized weighted least-squares (PWLS) criterion. Methods: Projection images of a contrast phantom, a CatPhan ® 600 phantom and a head phantom were acquired by a Varian 2100EX LINAC with a low-Z (Al) target and low energy x-ray beam (2.5 MeV) at a low-dose level and at a high-dose level. The projections were then processed by minimizing the PWLS objective function. The weighted least square (WLS) term models the noise of measured projection and the penalty term enforces the smoothing constraints of the projection image. The variance of projection data was chosen as the weight for the PWLS objective function and it determined the contribution of each measurement. An anisotropic quadratic form penalty that incorporates the gradient information of projection image was used to preserve edges during noise reduction. Low-Z target MV CBCT images were reconstructed by the FDK algorithm after each projection was processed by the PWLS smoothing. Results: Noise in low-Z target MV CBCT images were greatly suppressed after the PWLS projection smoothing, without noticeable sacrifice of the spatial resolution. Depending on the choice of smoothing parameter, the CNR of selected regions of interest in the PWLS processed low-dose low-Z target MV CBCT image can be higher than the corresponding high-dose image. Conclusion: The CNR of low-Z target MV CBCT images was substantially improved by using PWLS projection smoothing. The PWLS projection smoothing algorithm allows the reconstruction of high contrast low-Z target MV CBCT image with a total dose of as low as 2.3 cGy.
- MV CBCT
- low-Z target
- noise reduction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging