In the era of high-precision radiotherapy, cone-beam CT (CBCT) is frequently utilized for on-board treatment guidance. However, CBCT images usually contain severe shading artifacts due to strong photon scatter from illumination of a large volume and non-optimized patient-specific data measurements, limiting the full clinical applications of CBCT. Many algorithms have been proposed to alleviate this problem by data correction on projections. Sophisticated methods have also been designed when prior patient information is available. Nevertheless, a standard, efficient, and effective approach with large applicability remains elusive for current clinical practice. In this work, we develop a novel algorithm for shading correction directly on CBCT images. Distinct from other image-domain correction methods, our approach does not rely on prior patient information or prior assumption of patient data. In CBCT, projection errors (mostly from scatter and non-ideal usage of bowtie filter) result in dominant low-frequency shading artifacts in image domain. In circular scan geometry, these artifacts often show global or local radial patterns. Hence, the raw CBCT images are first preprocessed into the polar coordinate system. Median filtering and polynomial fitting are applied on the transformed image to estimate the low-frequency shading artifacts (referred to as the bias field) angle-by-angle and slice-by-slice. The low-pass filtering process is done firstly along the angular direction and then the radial direction to preserve image contrast. The estimated bias field is then converted back to the Cartesian coordinate system, followed by 3D low-pass filtering to eliminate possible high-frequency components. The shading-corrected image is finally obtained as the uncorrected volume divided by the bias field. The proposed algorithm was evaluated on CBCT images of a pelvis patient and a head patient. Mean CT number values and spatial non-uniformity on the reconstructed images were used as image quality metrics. Within selected regions of interest, the average CT number error was reduced from around 300 HU to 42 and 38 HU, and the spatial nonuniformity error was reduced from above 17.5% to 2.1% and 1.7% for the pelvis and the head patients, respectively. As our method suppresses only low-frequency shading artifacts, patient anatomy and contrast were retained in the corrected images for both cases. Our shading correction algorithm on CBCT images offers several advantages. It has a high efficiency, since it is deterministic and directly operates on the reconstructed images. It requires no prior information or assumptions, which not only achieves the merits of CBCT-based treatment monitoring by retaining the patient anatomy, but also facilitates its clinical use as an efficient image-correction solution.
- Scatter correction
- Shading correction