Purpose: Assessment of image quality directly in clinical image data is an important quality control objective as phantom-based testing does not fully represent image quality across patient variation. Computer algorithms for automatically measuring noise in clinical computed tomography (CT) images have been introduced, but the accuracy of these algorithms is unclear. This work benchmarks the accuracy of the global noise (GN) algorithm for automatic noise measurement in contrast-enhanced abdomen CT exams in comparison to precise reference noise measurements. The GN algorithm was further optimized compared to the previous report in the literature. Methods: Reference values of noise were established in a public image dataset of 82 contrast-enhanced abdomen CT exams. The reference noise values were obtained by manual regions-of-interest measurements of pixel standard deviation in the liver parenchyma according to an instruction protocol. Noise measurements taken by six observers were averaged together to improve reference noise statistical precision. The GN algorithm was used to automatically measure noise in each image set. The accuracy of the GN algorithm was determined in terms of RMS error compared to reference noise. The GN algorithm was optimized by conducting 1000 trials with random algorithm parameter values. The trial with the lowest RMS error was used to select optimum algorithm parameters. Results: The range of noise across CT image sets was 8.8–28.8 HU. Reference noise measurements were made with a precision of ±0.78 HU (95% confidence interval). The RMS error of automatic noise measurement was 0.93 HU (0.77–1.19 HU 95% confidence interval). The automatic noise measurements were equally accurate across image sets of varying noise magnitude. Optimum GN algorithm parameter values were: a kernel size of 7 pixels, and soft tissue lower and upper thresholds of 0 and 170 HU, respectively. Conclusions: The performance of automatic noise measurement was benchmarked in a large clinical CT dataset. The study provides a framework for thorough validation of automatic clinical image quality measurement methods. The GN algorithm was optimized and validated for automatic measurement of soft-tissue noise in abdomen CT exams.
- computed tomography