In emission tomography, iterative reconstruction is usually followed by a linear smoothing filter to make such images more appropriate for visual inspection and diagnosis by a physician. This will result in a global blurring of the images, smoothing across edges and possibly discarding valuable image information for detection tasks. The purpose of this study is to investigate which possible advantages a non-linear, edge-preserving postfilter could have on lesion detection in Ga-67 SPECT imaging. Image quality can be defined based on the task that has to be performed on the image. This study used LROC observer studies based on a dataset created by CPU-intensive Gate Monte Carlo simulations of a voxelized digital phantom. The filters considered in this study were a linear Gaussian filter, a bilateral filter, the Perona-Malik anisotropic diffusion filter and the Catte filtering scheme.
The 3D MCAT software phantom was used to simulate the distribution of Ga-67 citrate in the abdomen. Tumor-present cases had a 1-cm diameter tumor randomly placed near the edges of the anatomical boundaries of the kidneys, bone, liver and spleen. Our data set was generated out of a single noisy background simulation using the bootstrap method, to significantly reduce the simulation time and to allow for a larger observer data set. Lesions were simulated separately and added to the background afterwards. These were then reconstructed with an iterative approach, using a sufficiently large number of MLEM iterations to establish convergence.
The output of a numerical observer was used in a simplex optimization method to estimate an optimal set of parameters for each postfilter.
No significant improvement was found for using edge-preserving filtering techniques over standard linear Gaussian filtering.