Novel x-ray medical imaging sensors, such as photon counting detectors (PCDs) and large area CCD and CMOS cameras can involve irregular and/or sparse sampling of the detector plane. Application of such detectors to CT involves undersampling that is markedly different from the commonly considered case of sparse angular sampling. This work investigates volumetric sampling in CT systems incorporating sparsely sampled detectors with axial and helical scan orbits and evaluates performance of model-based image reconstruction (MBIR) with spatially varying regularization in mitigating artifacts due to sparse detector sampling. Volumetric metrics of sampling density and uniformity were introduced. Penalized-likelihood MBIR with a spatially varying penalty that homogenized resolution by accounting for variations in local sampling density (i.e. detector gaps) was evaluated. The proposed methodology was tested in simulations and on an imaging bench based on a Si-strip PCD (total area 5 cm × 25 cm) consisting of an arrangement of line sensors separated by gaps of up to 2.5 mm. The bench was equipped with translation/rotation stages allowing a variety of scanning trajectories, ranging from a simple axial acquisition to helical scans with variable pitch. Statistical (spherical clutter) and anthropomorphic (hand) phantoms were considered. Image quality was compared to that obtained with a conventional uniform penalty in terms of structural similarity index (SSIM), image uniformity, spatial resolution, contrast, and noise. Scan trajectories with intermediate helical width (∼10 mm longitudinal distance per 360° rotation) demonstrated optimal tradeoff between the average sampling density and the homogeneity of sampling throughout the volume. For a scan trajectory with 10.8 mm helical width, the spatially varying penalty resulted in significant visual reduction of sampling artifacts, confirmed by a 10% reduction in minimum SSIM (from 0.88 to 0.8) and a 40% reduction in the dispersion of SSIM in the volume compared to the constant penalty (both penalties applied at optimal regularization strength). Images of the spherical clutter and wrist phantoms confirmed the advantages of the spatially varying penalty, showing a 25% improvement in image uniformity and 1.8 × higher CNR (at matched spatial resolution) compared to the constant penalty. The studies elucidate the relationship between sampling in the detector plane, acquisition orbit, sampling of the reconstructed volume, and the resulting image quality. They also demonstrate the benefit of spatially varying regularization in MBIR for scenarios with irregular sampling patterns. Such findings are important and integral to the incorporation of a sparsely sampled Si-strip PCD in CT imaging.
- discontinuous detectors
- iterative image reconstruction
- photon counting CT
- sparse sampling
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging