Technology Characterization Through Diverse Evaluation Methodologies: Application to Thoracic Imaging in Photon-Counting Computed Tomography.


OBJECTIVE: Different methods can be used to condition imaging systems for clinical use. The purpose of this study was to assess how these methods complement one another in evaluating a system for clinical integration of an emerging technology, photon-counting computed tomography (PCCT), for thoracic imaging. METHODS: Four methods were used to assess a clinical PCCT system (NAEOTOM Alpha; Siemens Healthineers, Forchheim, Germany) across 3 reconstruction kernels (Br40f, Br48f, and Br56f). First, a phantom evaluation was performed using a computed tomography quality control phantom to characterize noise magnitude, spatial resolution, and detectability. Second, clinical images acquired using conventional and PCCT systems were used for a multi-institutional reader study where readers from 2 institutions were asked to rank their preference of images. Third, the clinical images were assessed in terms of in vivo image quality characterization of global noise index and detectability. Fourth, a virtual imaging trial was conducted using a validated simulation platform (DukeSim) that models PCCT and a virtual patient model (XCAT) with embedded lung lesions imaged under differing conditions of respiratory phase and positional displacement. Using known ground truth of the patient model, images were evaluated for quantitative biomarkers of lung intensity histograms and lesion morphology metrics. RESULTS: For the physical phantom study, the Br56f kernel was shown to have the highest resolution despite having the highest noise and lowest detectability. Readers across both institutions preferred the Br56f kernel (71% first rank) with a high interclass correlation (0.990). In vivo assessments found superior detectability for PCCT compared with conventional computed tomography but higher noise and reduced detectability with increased kernel sharpness. For the virtual imaging trial, Br40f was shown to have the best performance for histogram measures, whereas Br56f was shown to have the most precise and accurate morphology metrics. CONCLUSION: The 4 evaluation methods each have their strengths and limitations and bring complementary insight to the evaluation of PCCT. Although no method offers a complete answer, concordant findings between methods offer affirmatory confidence in a decision, whereas discordant ones offer insight for added perspective. Aggregating our findings, we concluded the Br56f kernel best for high-resolution tasks and Br40f for contrast-dependent tasks.






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Publication Info

Rajagopal, Jayasai R, Fides R Schwartz, Cindy McCabe, Faraz Farhadi, Mojtaba Zarei, Francesco Ria, Ehsan Abadi, Paul Segars, et al. (2024). Technology Characterization Through Diverse Evaluation Methodologies: Application to Thoracic Imaging in Photon-Counting Computed Tomography. J Comput Assist Tomogr. 10.1097/RCT.0000000000001608 Retrieved from

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Francesco Ria

Assistant Professor of Radiology

Dr. Francesco Ria is a medical physicist and he serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiology. Francesco has an extensive expertise in the assessment of procedure performances in radiology. In particular, his research activities focus on the simultaneous evaluation of radiation dose and image quality in vivo in computed tomography providing a comprehensive evaluation of radiological exams. Moreover, Francesco is developing and investigating novel mathematical models that, uniquely in the radiology field, can incorporate a comprehensive and quantitative risk-to-benefit assessment of the procedures; he is continuing to apply his expertise towards the definition of new patient specific risk metrics, and in the assessment of image quality in vivo also using state-of-the-art imaging technology, such as photon counting computed tomography scanners, and machine learning reconstruction algorithms.

Dr. Ria is a member of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine task group 392 (Investigation and Quality Control of Automatic Exposure Control System in CT), of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine Public Education working group (WGATE), and of the Italian Association of Medical Physics task group Dose Monitoring in Diagnostic Imaging.

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