Quantitative cone-beam CT imaging in radiation therapy using planning CT as a prior: First patient studies

Tianye Niu, Ahmad Al-Basheer, Lei Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Purpose: Quantitative cone-beam CT (CBCT) imaging is on increasing demand for high-performance image guided radiation therapy (IGRT). However, the current CBCT has poor image qualities mainly due to scatter contamination. Its current clinical application is therefore limited to patient setup based on only bony structures. To improve CBCT imaging for quantitative use, we recently proposed a correction method using planning CT (pCT) as the prior knowledge. Promising phantom results have been obtained on a tabletop CBCT system, using a correction scheme with rigid registration and without iterations. More challenges arise in clinical implementations of our method, especially because patients have large organ deformation in different scans. In this paper, we propose an improved framework to extend our method from bench to bedside by including several new components. Methods: The basic principle of our correction algorithm is to estimate the primary signals of CBCT projections via forward projection on the pCT image, and then to obtain the low-frequency errors in CBCT raw projections by subtracting the estimated primary signals and low-pass filtering. We improve the algorithm by using deformable registration to minimize the geometry difference between the pCT and the CBCT images. Since the registration performance relies on the accuracy of the CBCT image, we design an optional iterative scheme to update the CBCT image used in the registration. Large correction errors result from the mismatched objects in the pCT and the CBCT scans. Another optional step of gas pocket and couch matching is added into the framework to reduce these effects. Results: The proposed method is evaluated on four prostate patients, of which two cases are presented in detail to investigate the method performance for a large variety of patient geometry in clinical practice. The first patient has small anatomical changes from the planning to the treatment room. Our algorithm works well even without the optional iterations and the gas pocket and couch matching. The image correction on the second patient is more challenging due to the effects of gas pockets and attenuating couch. The improved framework with all new components is used to fully evaluate the correction performance. The enhanced image quality has been evaluated using mean CT number and spatial nonuniformity (SNU) error as well as contrast improvement factor. If the pCT image is considered as the ground truth, on the four patients, the overall mean CT number error is reduced from over 300 HU to below 16 HU in the selected regions of interest (ROIs), and the SNU error is suppressed from over 18 to below 2. The average soft-tissue contrast is improved by an average factor of 2.6. Conclusions: We further improve our pCT-based CBCT correction algorithm for clinical use. Superior correction performance has been demonstrated on four patient studies. By providing quantitative CBCT images, our approach significantly increases the accuracy of advanced CBCT-based clinical applications for IGRT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1991-2000
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • planning CT
  • quantitative cone-beam CT
  • radiation therapy
  • scatter correction
  • shading correction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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