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Phys Med Biol. 2018 Oct 23;63(21):215004. doi: 10.1088/1361-6560/aae511.

Iterative quality enhancement via residual-artifact learning networks for low-dose CT.

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School of Biomedical Engineering, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou 510515, People's Republic of China. Guangzhou Key Laboratory of Medical Radiation Imaging and Detection Technology, Southern Medical University, Guangdong 510515, People's Republic of China. These authors contributed equally.


Radiation exposure and the associated risk of cancer for patients in computed tomography (CT) scans have been major clinical concerns. The radiation exposure can be reduced effectively via lowering the x-ray tube current (mA). However, this strategy may lead to excessive noise and streak artifacts in the conventional filtered back-projection reconstructed images. To address this issue, some deep convolutional neural network (ConvNet) based approaches have been developed for low-dose CT imaging inspired by the recent development of machine learning. Nevertheless, some of the image textures reconstructed by the ConvNet could be corrupted by the severe streaks, especially in ultra-low-dose cases, which could be close to prostheses and hamper diagnosis. Therefore, in this work, we propose an iterative residual-artifact learning ConvNet (IRLNet) approach to improve the reconstruction performance over the ConvNet based approaches. Specifically, the proposed IRLNet estimates the high-frequency details within the noise and then removes them iteratively; after eliminating severe streaks in the low-dose CT images, the residual low-frequency details can be processed through the conventional network. Moreover, the proposed IRLNet scheme can be extended for robust handling of quantitative dual energy CT/cerebral perfusion CT imaging, and statistical iterative reconstruction. Real patient data are used to evaluate the proposed IRLNet, and the experimental results demonstrate that the proposed IRLNet approach outperforms the previous ConvNet based approaches in reducing the image noise and streak artifacts efficiently at the same time as preserving edge details well, suggesting that the proposed IRLNet approach can be used to improve the CT image quality, especially in ultra-low-dose cases.


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