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Noise filtering techniques that maintain image contrast while decreasing image noise have the potential to optimize the quality of computed tomography (CT) images acquired at reduced radiation dose. In this paper, a hybrid diffusion filter with continuous switch (HDCS) is introduced, which exploits the benefits of three-dimensional edge-enhancing diffusion (EED) and coherence-enhancing diffusion (CED). Noise is filtered, while edges, tubular structures, and small spherical structures are preserved. From ten high dose thorax CT scans, acquired at clinical doses, ultra low dose ( 15 mAs ) scans were simulated and used to evaluate and compare HDCS to other diffusion filters, such as regularized Perona-Malik diffusion and EED. Quantitative results show that the HDCS filter outperforms the other filters in restoring the high dose CT scan from the corresponding simulated low dose scan. A qualitative evaluation was performed on filtered real low dose CT thorax scans. An expert observer scored artifacts as well as fine structures and was asked to choose one of three scans (two filtered (blinded), one unfiltered) for three different settings (trachea, lung, and mediastinal). Overall, the HDCS filtered scan was chosen most often.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2009