A prototype spatial–spectral CT system for material decomposition with energy-integrating detectors

Matthew Tivnan, Wenying Wang, J. Webster Stayman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Spectral CT has great potential for a variety of clinical applications due to improved tissue and material discrimination over conventional single-energy CT. Many clinical and preclinical spectral CT systems have two spectral channels enabling dual-energy CT. Strategies include split filtration, dual-layer detectors, photon-counting detectors, and kVp switching. The motivation for this work is the development of an x-ray source spectral modulation device with three or more spectral channels to enable high-sensitivity multi-material decomposition with energy-integrating detectors. Materials and Methods: We present spatial–spectral filters which are a new x-ray source modulation technology with the potential for additional channel diversity. The filtering device consists of an array of K-edge materials which divide the x-ray beam into spectrally varied beamlets. This design allows for an arbitrary number of spectral channels—trading off spatial and spectral information. We use a one-step model-based material decomposition (MBMD) algorithm to iteratively estimate material density images directly from the spatial–spectral CT data. In this work, we present a prototype spatial–spectral filter integrated with an x-ray CT test bench. The filter is composed of an array of tin, erbium, tantalum, and lead filter tiles which spatially modulate the system spectral sensitivity pattern. In a simulation study, we investigate the particular problem of mis-calibration between the data acquisition and the reconstruction model. With an understanding of the required model accuracy, we present a spectral calibration method to estimate the critical model parameters. To demonstrate feasibility of the spatial–spectral filter with a calibrated beamlet model, we collected a spatial–spectral CT scan of a multicontrast-enhanced phantom containing water, iodine, and gadolinium solutions. Results: With simulations, we show that material decomposition is possible with spatial–spectral-filtered CT data, and we demonstrate the importance of a well-calibrated physical model. We find a 50% increase in error for focal spot model mismatch of 0.27mm and gap width model mismatch of 16 mμ. With physical results, we demonstrate that the calibrated system model is in close agreement with the measured data, and that the reconstructed material density images match the ground truth concentrations for the multicontrast phantom. Empirical results indicate gadolinium density estimation had an error of 17-58% mostly due to a systematic constant bias of 0.30–0.60 mg/ml. Water density estimates are within 1% and iodine estimates are within 10% of ground truth. Conclusion: These preliminary results demonstrate the potential of spatial–spectral filters to enable multicontrast imaging. Moreover, this device is compatible with energy-integrating detectors and so provides a feasible modification to enable spectral CT imaging with existing single-energy systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6401-6411
Number of pages11
JournalMedical physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • model-based material decomposition
  • multi-energy CT
  • multicontrast imaging
  • sparse CT
  • spectral CT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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