Purpose: To measure the sensitivity of deformable image registration to image noise. Deformable image registration can be used to map organ contours and other treatment planning data from one CT to another. These CT studies can be acquired with either conventional fan-beam CT systems or more novel cone-beam CT techniques. However, cone-beam CT images can have higher noise levels than fan-beam CT, which might reduce registration accuracy. We have investigated the effect of image quality differences on the deformable registration of fan-beam CTs and CTs with simulated cone-beam noise. Method: Our study used three CT studies for each of five prostate patients. Each CT was contoured by three experienced radiation oncologists. For each patient, one CT was designated the source image and the other two were target images. A deformable image registration process was used to register each source CT to each target CT and then transfer the manually drawn treatment planning contours from the source CT to the target CTs. The accuracy of the automatically transferred contours (and thus of the deformable registration process) was assessed by comparing them to the manual contours on the target CTs, with the differences evaluated with respect to interobserver variability in the manual contours. Then each of the target CTs was modified to include increased noise characteristic of cone-beam CT and the tests were repeated. Changes in registration accuracy due to increased noise were detected by monitoring changes in the automatically transferred contours. Results: We found that the additional noise caused no significant loss of registration accuracy at magnitudes that exceeded what would normally be found in an actual cone-beam CT. Summary: We conclude that noise levels in cone-beam CTs that might reduce manual contouring accuracy do not reduce image registration and automatic contouring accuracy.
- Automatic contouring
- Cone-beam CT
- Deformable image registration