Objective. To develop a convolutional neural network (CNN) noise reduction technique for ultra-high-resolution photon-counting detector computed tomography (UHR-PCD-CT) that can be efficiently implemented using only clinically available reconstructed images. The developed technique was demonstrated for skeletal survey, lung screening, and head angiography (CTA). Approach. There were 39 participants enrolled in this study, each received a UHR-PCD and an energy integrating detector (EID) CT scan. The developed CNN noise reduction technique uses image-based noise insertion and UHR-PCD-CT images to train a U-Net via supervised learning. For each application, 13 patient scans were reconstructed using filtered back projection (FBP) and iterative reconstruction (IR) and allocated into training, validation, and testing datasets (9:1:3). The subtraction of FBP and IR images resulted in approximately noise-only images. The 5-slice average of IR produced a thick reference image. The CNN training input consisted of thick reference images with reinsertion of spatially decoupled noise-only images. The training target consisted of the corresponding thick reference images without noise insertion. Performance was evaluated based on difference images, line profiles, noise measurements, nonlinear perturbation assessment, and radiologist visual assessment. UHR-PCD-CT images were compared with EID images (clinical standard). Main results. Up to 89% noise reduction was achieved using the proposed CNN. Nonlinear perturbation assessment indicated reasonable retention of 1 mm radius and 1000 HU contrast signals (>80% for skeletal survey and head CTA, >50% for lung screening). A contour plot indicated reduced retention for small-radius and low contrast perturbations. Radiologists preferred CNN over IR for UHR-PCD-CT noise reduction. Additionally, UHR-PCD-CT with CNN was preferred over standard resolution EID-CT images. Significance. CT images reconstructed with very sharp kernels and/or thin sections suffer from increased image noise. Deep learning noise reduction can be used to offset noise level and increase utility of UHR-PCD-CT images.
- convolutional neural network
- deep learning
- noise reduction
- photon-counting detector CT
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging