Background: Deep artificial neural networks such as convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have been shown to be effective models for reducing noise in CT images while preserving anatomic details. A practical bottleneck for developing CNN-based denoising models is the procurement of training data consisting of paired examples of high-noise and low-noise CT images. Obtaining these paired data are not practical in a clinical setting where the raw projection data is not available. This work outlines a technique to optimize CNN denoising models using methods that are available in a routine clinical setting. Purpose: To demonstrate a phantom-based training framework for CNN noise reduction that can be efficiently implemented on any CT scanner. Methods: The phantom-based training framework uses supervised learning in which training data are synthesized using an image-based noise insertion technique. Ten patient image series were used for training and validation (9:1) and noise-only images obtained from anthropomorphic phantom scans. Phantom noise-only images were superimposed on patient images to imitate low-dose CT images for use in training. A modified U-Net architecture was used with mean-squared-error and feature reconstruction loss. The training framework was tested for clinically indicated whole-body-low-dose CT images, as well as routine abdomen-pelvis exams for which projection data was unavailable. Performance was assessed based on root-mean-square error, structural similarity, line profiles, and visual assessment. Results: When the CNN was tested on five reserved quarter-dose whole-body-low-dose CT images, noise was reduced by 75%, root-mean-square-error reduced by 34%, and structural similarity increased by 60%. Visual analysis and line profiles indicated that the method significantly reduced noise while maintaining spatial resolution of anatomic features. Conclusion: The proposed phantom-based training framework demonstrated strong noise reduction while preserving spatial detail. Because this method is based within the image domain, it can be easily implemented without access to projection data.
- deep learning
- noise reduction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging