Noise reduction and functional maps image quality improvement in dynamic CT perfusion using a new k-means clustering guided bilateral filter (KMGB)

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Dynamic CT perfusion (CTP) consists in repeated acquisitions of the same volume in different time steps, slightly before, during and slightly afterwards the injection of contrast media. Important functional information can be derived for each voxel, which reflect the local hemodynamic properties and hence the metabolism of the tissue. Different approaches are being investigated to exploit data redundancy and prior knowledge for noise reduction of such datasets, ranging from iterative reconstruction schemes to high dimensional filters.


We propose a new spatial bilateral filter which makes use of the k-means clustering algorithm and of an optimal calculated guiding image. We named the proposed filter as k-means clustering guided bilateral filter (KMGB). In this study, the KMGB filter is compared with the partial temporal non-local means filter (PATEN), with the time-intensity profile similarity (TIPS) filter, and with a new version derived from it, by introducing the guiding image (GB-TIPS). All the filters were tested on a digital in-house developed brain CTP phantom, were noise was added to simulate 80 kV and 200 mAs (default scanning parameters), 100 mAs and 30 mAs. Moreover, the filters performances were tested on 7 noisy clinical datasets with different pathologies in different body regions. The original contribution of our work is two-fold: first we propose an efficient algorithm to calculate a guiding image to improve the results of the TIPS filter, secondly we propose the introduction of the k-means clustering step and demonstrate how this can potentially replace the TIPS part of the filter obtaining better results at lower computational efforts.


As expected, in the GB-TIPS, the introduction of the guiding image limits the over-smoothing of the TIPS filter, improving spatial resolution by more than 50%. Furthermore, replacing the time-intensity profile similarity calculation with a fuzzy k-means clustering strategy (KMGB) allows to control the edge preserving features of the filter, resulting in improved spatial resolution and CNR both for CT images and for functional maps. In the phantom study, the PATEN filter showed overall the poorest results, while the other filters showed comparable performances in terms of perfusion values preservation, with the KMGB filter having overall the best image quality.


In conclusion, the KMGB filter leads to superior results for CT images and functional maps quality improvement, in significantly shorter computational times compared to the other filters. Our results suggest that the KMGB filter might be a more robust solution for halved-dose CTP datasets. For all the filters investigated, some artifacts start to appear on the BF maps if one sixth of the dose is simulated, suggesting that no one of the filters investigated in this study might be optimal for such a drastic dose reduction scenario.

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