A deep convolutional neural network using directional wavelets for low-dose X-ray CT reconstruction

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Abstract

Purpose:

Due to the potential risk of inducing cancer, radiation exposure by X-ray CT devices should be reduced for routine patient scanning. However, in low-dose X-ray CT, severe artifacts typically occur due to photon starvation, beam hardening, and other causes, all of which decrease the reliability of the diagnosis. Thus, a high-quality reconstruction method from low-dose X-ray CT data has become a major research topic in the CT community. Conventional model-based de-noising approaches are, however, computationally very expensive, and image-domain de-noising approaches cannot readily remove CT-specific noise patterns. To tackle these problems, we want to develop a new low-dose X-ray CT algorithm based on a deep-learning approach.

Method:

We propose an algorithm which uses a deep convolutional neural network (CNN) which is applied to the wavelet transform coefficients of low-dose CT images. More specifically, using a directional wavelet transform to extract the directional component of artifacts and exploit the intra- and inter- band correlations, our deep network can effectively suppress CT-specific noise. In addition, our CNN is designed with a residual learning architecture for faster network training and better performance.

Results:

Experimental results confirm that the proposed algorithm effectively removes complex noise patterns from CT images derived from a reduced X-ray dose. In addition, we show that the wavelet-domain CNN is efficient when used to remove noise from low-dose CT compared to existing approaches. Our results were rigorously evaluated by several radiologists at the Mayo Clinic and won second place at the 2016 “Low-Dose CT Grand Challenge.”

Conclusions:

To the best of our knowledge, this work is the first deep-learning architecture for low-dose CT reconstruction which has been rigorously evaluated and proven to be effective. In addition, the proposed algorithm, in contrast to existing model-based iterative reconstruction (MBIR) methods, has considerable potential to benefit from large data sets. Therefore, we believe that the proposed algorithm opens a new direction in the area of low-dose CT research.

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