A more accurate reconstruction system matrix for quantitative proton computed tomography
An accurate system matrix is required for quantitative proton CT (pCT) image reconstruction with iterative projection algorithms. The system matrix is composed of chord lengths of individual proton path intersections with reconstruction pixels. In previous work, reconstructions were performed assuming constant intersection chord lengths, which led to systematic errors of the reconstructed proton stopping powers. The purpose of the present work was to introduce a computationally efficient variable intersection chord length in order to improve the accuracy of the system matrix. An analytical expression that takes into account the discrete stepping nature of the pCT most likely path (MLP) reconstruction procedure was created to describe an angle-dependent effective mean chord length function. A pCT dataset was simulated with GEANT4 using a parallel beam of 200 MeV protons intersecting a computerized head phantom consisting of tissue-equivalent materials with known relative stopping power. The phantom stopping powers were reconstructed with the constant chord length, exact chord length, and effective mean chord length approaches, in combination with the algebraic reconstruction technique. Relative stopping power errors were calculated for each anatomical phantom region and compared for the various methods. It was found that the error of approximately 10% in the mean reconstructed stopping power value for a given anatomical region, resulting from a system matrix with a constant chord length, could be reduced to less than 0.5% with either the effective mean chord length or exact chord length approaches. Reconstructions with the effective mean chord length were found to be approximately 20% faster than reconstructions with an exact chord length. The effective mean chord length method provides the possibility for more accurate, computationally efficient quantitative pCT reconstructions.