Modeling the performance of a photon counting x-ray detector for CT: Energy response and pulse pileup effects

Katsuyuki Taguchi, Mengxi Zhang, Eric C. Frey, Xiaolan Wang, Jan S. Iwanczyk, Einar Nygard, Neal E. Hartsough, Benjamin M.W. Tsui, William C. Barber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Recently, photon counting x-ray detectors (PCXDs) with energy discrimination capabilities have been developed for potential use in clinical computed tomography (CT) scanners. These PCXDs have great potential to improve the quality of CT images due to the absence of electronic noise and weights applied to the counts and the additional spectral information. With high count rates encountered in clinical CT, however, coincident photons are recorded as one event with a higher or lower energy due to the finite speed of the PCXD. This phenomenon is called a "pulse pileup event" and results in both a loss of counts (called "deadtime losses") and distortion of the recorded energy spectrum. Even though the performance of PCXDs is being improved, it is essential to develop algorithmic methods based on accurate models of the properties of detectors to compensate for these effects. To date, only one PCXD (model DXMCT-1, DxRay, Inc., Northridge, CA) has been used for clinical CT studies. The aim of that study was to evaluate the agreement between data measured by DXMCT-1 and those predicted by analytical models for the energy response, the deadtime losses, and the distorted recorded spectrum caused by pulse pileup effects. Methods: An energy calibration was performed using T 99m c (140 keV), C 57 o (122 keV), and an x-ray beam obtained with four x-ray tube voltages (35, 50, 65, and 80 kVp). The DXMCT-1 was placed 150 mm from the x-ray focal spot; the count rates and the spectra were recorded at various tube current values from 10 to 500 μA for a tube voltage of 80 kVp. Using these measurements, for each pulse height comparator we estimated three parameters describing the photon energy-pulse height curve, the detector deadtime τ, a coefficient k that relates the x-ray tube current I to an incident count rate a by a=k×I, and the incident spectrum. The mean pulse shape of all comparators was acquired in a separate study and was used in the model to estimate the distorted recorded spectrum. The agreement between data measured by the DXMCT-1 and those predicted by the models was quantified by the coefficient of variation (COV), i.e., the root mean square difference divided by the mean of the measurement. Results: Photon energy versus pulse height curves calculated with an analytical model and those measured using the DXMCT-1 were in agreement within 0.2% in terms of the COV. The COV between the output count rates measured and those predicted by analytical models was 2.5% for deadtime losses of up to 60%. The COVs between spectra measured and those predicted by the detector model were within 3.7%-7.2% with deadtime losses of 19%-46%. Conclusions: It has been demonstrated that the performance of the DXMCT-1 agreed exceptionally well with the analytical models regarding the energy response, the count rate, and the recorded spectrum with pulse pileup effects. These models will be useful in developing methods to compensate for these effects in PCXD-based clinical CT systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1089-1102
Number of pages14
JournalMedical physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • computed tomography
  • photon counting
  • pulse pileup

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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