Modeling and design of a cone-beam CT head scanner using task-based imaging performance optimization

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22 Scopus citations


Detection of acute intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) is important for diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury, stroke, postoperative bleeding, and other head and neck injuries. This paper details the design and development of a cone-beam CT (CBCT) system developed specifically for the detection of low-contrast ICH in a form suitable for application at the point of care. Recognizing such a low-contrast imaging task to be a major challenge in CBCT, the system design began with a rigorous analysis of task-based detectability including critical aspects of system geometry, hardware configuration, and artifact correction. The imaging performance model described the three-dimensional (3D) noise-equivalent quanta using a cascaded systems model that included the effects of scatter, scatter correction, hardware considerations of complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) and flat-panel detectors (FPDs), and digitization bit depth. The performance was analyzed with respect to a low-contrast (40-80 HU), medium-frequency task representing acute ICH detection. The task-based detectability index was computed using a non-prewhitening observer model. The optimization was performed with respect to four major design considerations: (1) system geometry (including source-to-detector distance (SDD) and source-to-axis distance (SAD)); (2) factors related to the x-ray source (including focal spot size, kVp, dose, and tube power); (3) scatter correction and selection of an antiscatter grid; and (4) x-ray detector configuration (including pixel size, additive electronics noise, field of view (FOV), and frame rate, including both CMOS and a-Si:H FPDs). Optimal design choices were also considered with respect to practical constraints and available hardware components. The model was verified in comparison to measurements on a CBCT imaging bench as a function of the numerous design parameters mentioned above. An extended geometry (SAD = 750 mm, SDD = 1100 mm) was found to be advantageous in terms of patient dose (20 mGy) and scatter reduction, while a more isocentric configuration (SAD = 550 mm, SDD = 1000 mm) was found to give a more compact and mechanically favorable configuration with minor tradeoff in detectability. An x-ray source with a 0.6 mm focal spot size provided the best compromise between spatial resolution requirements and x-ray tube power. Use of a modest anti-scatter grid (8:1 GR) at a 20 mGy dose provided slight improvement (∼5-10%) in the detectability index, but the benefit was lost at reduced dose. The potential advantages of CMOS detectors over FPDs were quantified, showing that both detectors provided sufficient spatial resolution for ICH detection, while the former provided a potentially superior low-dose performance, and the latter provided the requisite FOV for volumetric imaging in a centered-detector geometry. Task-based imaging performance modeling provides an important starting point for CBCT system design, especially for the challenging task of ICH detection, which is somewhat beyond the capabilities of existing CBCT platforms. The model identifies important tradeoffs in system geometry and hardware configuration, and it supports the development of a dedicated CBCT system for point-of-care application. A prototype suitable for clinical studies is in development based on this analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3180-3207
Number of pages28
JournalPhysics in medicine and biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Mar 29 2016


  • cascaded systems analysis
  • cone-beam computed tomography
  • detectability index
  • image quality
  • imaging task
  • intracranial hemorrhage
  • traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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