Optimization of the design of thick, segmented scintillators for megavoltage cone-beam CT using a novel, hybrid modeling technique




Active matrix flat-panel imagers (AMFPIs) incorporating thick, segmented scintillators have demonstrated order-of-magnitude improvements in detective quantum efficiency (DQE) at radiotherapy energies compared to systems based on conventional phosphor screens. Such improved DQE values facilitate megavoltage cone-beam CT (MV CBCT) imaging at clinically practical doses. However, the MV CBCT performance of such AMFPIs is highly dependent on the design parameters of the scintillators. In this paper, optimization of the design of segmented scintillators was explored using a hybrid modeling technique which encompasses both radiation and optical effects.


Imaging performance in terms of the contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) and spatial resolution of various hypothetical scintillator designs was examined through a hybrid technique involving Monte Carlo simulation of radiation transport in combination with simulation of optical gain distributions and optical point spread functions. The optical simulations employed optical parameters extracted from a best fit to measurement results reported in a previous investigation of a 1.13 cm thick, 1016μm pitch prototype BGO segmented scintillator. All hypothetical designs employed BGO material with a thickness and element-to-element pitch ranging from 0.5 to 6 cm and from 0.508 to 1.524 mm, respectively. In the CNR study, for each design, full tomographic scans of a contrast phantom incorporating various soft-tissue inserts were simulated at a total dose of 4 cGy.


Theoretical values for contrast, noise, and CNR were found to be in close agreement with empirical results from the BGO prototype, strongly supporting the validity of the modeling technique. CNR and spatial resolution for the various scintillator designs demonstrate complex behavior as scintillator thickness and element pitch are varied—with a clear trade-off between these two imaging metrics up to a thickness of ∼3 cm. Based on these results, an optimization map indicating the regions of design that provide a balance between these metrics was obtained. The map shows that, for a given set of optical parameters, scintillator thickness and pixel pitch can be judiciously chosen to maximize performance without resorting to thicker, more costly scintillators.


Modeling radiation and optical effects in thick, segmented scintillators through use of a hybrid technique can provide a practical way to gain insight as to how to optimize the performance of such devices in radiotherapy imaging. Assisted by such modeling, the development of practical designs should greatly facilitate low-dose, soft tissue visualization employing MV CBCT imaging in external beam radiotherapy.