Modified ideal observer model (MIOM) for high-contrast and high-spatial resolution CT imaging tasks

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Although a variety of mathematical observer models have been developed to predict human observer performance for low contrast lesion detection tasks, their predictive power for high contrast and high spatial resolution discrimination imaging tasks, including those in CT bone imaging, could be limited. The purpose of this work was to develop a modified observer model that has improved correlation with human observer performance for these tasks.


The proposed observer model, referred to as the modified ideal observer model (MIOM), uses a weight function to penalize components in the task function that have less contribution to the actual human observer performance for high contrast and high spatial resolution discrimination tasks. To validate MIOM, both human observer and observer model studies were performed, each using exactly the same CT imaging task [discrimination of a connected component in a high contrast (1000 HU) high spatial resolution bone fracture model (0.3 mm)] and experimental CT image data. For the human observer studies, three physicist observers rated the connectivity of the fracture model using a five-point Likert scale; for the observer model studies, a total of five observer models, including both conventional models and the proposed MIOM, were used to calculate the discrimination capability of the CT images in resolving the connected component. Images used in the studies encompassed nine different reconstruction kernels. Correlation between human and observer model performance for these kernels were quantified using the Spearman rank correlation coefficient (ρ). After the validation study, an example application of MIOM was presented, in which the observer model was used to select the optimal reconstruction kernel for a High-Resolution (Hi-Res, GE Healthcare) CT scan technique.


The performance of the proposed MIOM correlated well with that of the human observers with a Spearman rank correlation coefficient ρ of 0.88 (P = 0.003). In comparison, the value of ρ was 0.05 (P = 0.904) for the ideal observer, 0.05 (P = 0.904) for the non-prewhitening observer, −0.18 (P = 0.634) for the non-prewhitening observer with eye filter and internal noise, and 0.30 (P = 0.427) for the prewhitening observer with eye filter and internal noise. Using the validated MIOM, the optimal reconstruction kernel for the Hi-Res mode to perform high spatial resolution and high contrast discrimination imaging tasks was determined to be the HD Ultra kernel at the center of the scan field of view (SFOV), or the Lung kernel at the peripheral region of the SFOV. This result was consistent with visual observations of nasal CT images of an in vivo canine subject.


Compared with other observer models, the proposed modified ideal observer model provides significantly improved correlation with human observers for high contrast and high spatial resolution CT imaging tasks.

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