Reduction of irregular breathing artifacts in respiration-correlated CT images using a respiratory motion model

Authors


Abstract

Purpose:

Respiration-correlated CT (RCCT) images produced with commonly used phase-based sorting of CT slices often exhibit discontinuity artifacts between CT slices, caused by cycle-to-cycle amplitude variations in respiration. Sorting based on the displacement of the respiratory signal yields slices at more consistent respiratory motion states and hence reduces artifacts, but missing image data (gaps) may occur. The authors report on the application of a respiratory motion model to produce an RCCT image set with reduced artifacts and without missing data.

Methods:

Input data consist of CT slices from a cine CT scan acquired while recording respiration by monitoring abdominal displacement. The model-based generation of RCCT images consists of four processing steps: (1) displacement-based sorting of CT slices to form volume images at 10 motion states over the cycle; (2) selection of a reference image without gaps and deformable registration between the reference image and each of the remaining images; (3) generation of the motion model by applying a principal component analysis to establish a relationship between displacement field and respiration signal at each motion state; (4) application of the motion model to deform the reference image into images at the 9 other motion states. Deformable image registration uses a modified fast free-form algorithm that excludes zero-intensity voxels, caused by missing data, from the image similarity term in the minimization function. In each iteration of the minimization, the displacement field in the gap regions is linearly interpolated from nearest neighbor nonzero intensity slices. Evaluation of the model-based RCCT examines three types of image sets: cine scans of a physical phantom programmed to move according to a patient respiratory signal, NURBS-based cardiac torso (NCAT) software phantom, and patient thoracic scans.

Results:

Comparison in physical motion phantom shows that object distortion caused by variable motion amplitude in phase-based sorting is visibly reduced with model-based RCCT. Comparison of model-based RCCT to original NCAT images as ground truth shows best agreement at motion states whose displacement-sorted images have no missing slices, with mean and maximum discrepancies in lung of 1 and 3 mm, respectively. Larger discrepancies correlate with motion states having a larger number of missing slices in the displacement-sorted images. Artifacts in patient images at different motion states are also reduced. Comparison with displacement-sorted patient images as a ground truth shows that the model-based images closely reproduce the ground truth geometry at different motion states.

Conclusions:

Results in phantom and patient images indicate that the proposed method can produce RCCT image sets with reduced artifacts relative to phase-sorted images, without the gaps inherent in displacement-sorted images. The method requires a reference image at one motion state that has no missing data. Highly irregular breathing patterns can affect the method's performance, by introducing artifacts in the reference image (although reduced relative to phase-sorted images), or in decreased accuracy in the image prediction of motion states containing large regions of missing data.

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