Low dose CT imaging is typically constrained to be diagnostic. However, there are applications for even lowerdose CT imaging, including image registration across multi-frame CT images and attenuation correction for PET/CT imaging. We define this as the ultra-low-dose (ULD) CT regime where the exposure level is a factor of 10 lower than current low-dose CT technique levels. In the ULD regime it is possible to use statistically-principled image reconstruction methods that make full use of the raw data information. Since most statistical based iterative reconstruction methods are based on the assumption of that post-log noise distribution is close to Poisson or Gaussian, our goal is to understand the statistical distribution of ULD CT data with different non-positivity correction methods, and to understand when iterative reconstruction methods may be effective in producing images that are useful for image registration or attenuation correction in PET/CT imaging. We first used phantom measurement and calibrated simulation to reveal how the noise distribution deviate from normal assumption under the ULD CT flux environment. In summary, our results indicate that there are three general regimes: (1) Diagnostic CT, where post-log data are well modeled by normal distribution. (2) Lowdose CT, where normal distribution remains a reasonable approximation and statistically-principled (post-log) methods that assume a normal distribution have an advantage. (3) An ULD regime that is photon-starved and the quadratic approximation is no longer effective. For instance, a total integral density of 4.8 (ideal pi for ~24 cm of water) for 120kVp, 0.5mAs of radiation source is the maximum pi value where a definitive maximum likelihood value could be found. This leads to fundamental limits in the estimation of ULD CT data when using a standard data processing stream
Tzu-Cheng Lee, Ruoqiao Zhang, Adam M. Alessio, Lin Fu, Bruno De Man, and Paul E. Kinahan, "Statistical distributions of ultra-low dose CT sinograms and their fundamental limits," Proc. SPIE 10132, Medical Imaging 2017: Physics of Medical Imaging, 101320N (Presented at SPIE Medical Imaging: February 14, 2017; Published: 9 March 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2254375.
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