Practical considerations for noise power spectra estimation for clinical CT scanners

Steven Dolly, Hsin Chen Chen, Mark Anastasio, Sasa Mutic, Hua Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Local noise power spectra (NPS) have been commonly calculated to represent the noise properties of CT imaging systems, but their properties are significantly affected by the utilized calculation schemes. In this study, the effects of varied calculation parameters on the local NPS were analyzed, and practical suggestions were provided regarding the estimation of local NPS for clinical CT scanners. The uniformity module of a Catphan phantom was scanned with a Philips Brilliance 64 slice CT simulator with varied scanning protocols. Images were reconstructed using FBP and iDose4 iterative reconstruction with noise reduction levels 1, 3, and 6. Local NPS were calculated and compared for varied region of interest (ROI) locations and sizes, image background removal methods, and window functions. Additionally, with a predetermined NPS as a ground truth, local NPS calculation accuracy was compared for computer simulated ROIs, varying the aforementioned parameters in addition to ROI number. An analysis of the effects of these varied calculation parameters on the magnitude and shape of the NPS was conducted. The local NPS varied depending on calculation parameters, particularly at low spatial frequencies below ~ 0.15 mm-1. For the simulation study, NPS calculation error decreased exponentially as ROI number increased. For the Catphan study the NPS magnitude varied as a function of ROI location, which was better observed when using smaller ROI sizes. The image subtraction method for background removal was the most effective at reducing low-frequency background noise, and produced similar results no matter which ROI size or window function was used. The PCA background removal method with a Hann window function produced the closest match to image subtraction, with an average percent difference of 17.5%. Image noise should be analyzed locally by calculating the NPS for small ROI sizes. A minimum ROI size is recommended based on the chosen radial bin size and image pixel dimensions. As the ROI size decreases, the NPS becomes more dependent on the choice of background removal method and window function. The image subtraction method is most accurate, but other methods can achieve similar accuracy if certain window functions are applied. All dependencies should be analyzed and taken into account when considering the interpretation of the NPS for task-based image quality assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)392-407
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Applied Clinical Medical Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Background removal
  • Computed tomography
  • Image quality assessment
  • Iterative CT reconstruction
  • Noise power spectrum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Instrumentation
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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