Objective image quality assurance in cone-beam CT: Test methods, analysis, and workflow in longitudinal studies

Ashley Johnston, Mahadevappa Mahesh, Ali Uneri, Tatiana A. Rypinski, John M. Boone, Jeffrey H. Siewerdsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Standards for image quality evaluation in multi-detector CT (MDCT) and cone-beam CT (CBCT) are evolving to keep pace with technological advances. A clear need is emerging for methods that facilitate rigorous quality assurance (QA) with up-to-date metrology and streamlined workflow suitable to a range of MDCT and CBCT systems. Purpose: To evaluate the feasibility and workflow associated with image quality (IQ) assessment in longitudinal studies for MDCT and CBCT with a single test phantom and semiautomated analysis of objective, quantitative IQ metrology. Methods: A test phantom (CorgiTM Phantom, The Phantom Lab, Greenwich, New York, USA) was used in monthly IQ testing over the course of 1 year for three MDCT scanners (one of which presented helical and volumetric scan modes) and four CBCT scanners. Semiautomated software analyzed image uniformity, linearity, contrast, noise, contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR), 3D noise-power spectrum (NPS), modulation transfer function (MTF) in axial and oblique directions, and cone-beam artifact magnitude. The workflow was evaluated using methods adapted from systems/industrial engineering, including value stream process modeling (VSPM), standard work layout (SWL), and standard work control charts (SWCT) to quantify and optimize test methodology in routine practice. The completeness and consistency of DICOM data from each system was also evaluated. Results: Quantitative IQ metrology provided valuable insight in longitudinal quality assurance (QA), with metrics such as NPS and MTF providing insight on root cause for various forms of system failure—for example, detector calibration and geometric calibration. Monthly constancy testing showed variations in IQ test metrics owing to system performance as well as phantom setup and provided initial estimates of upper and lower control limits appropriate to QA action levels. Rigorous evaluation of QA workflow identified methods to reduce total cycle time to ∼10 min for each system—viz., use of a single phantom configuration appropriate to all scanners and Head or Body scan protocols. Numerous gaps in the completeness and consistency of DICOM data were observed for CBCT systems. Conclusion: An IQ phantom and test methodology was found to be suitable to QA of MDCT and CBCT systems with streamlined workflow appropriate to busy clinical settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2424-2443
Number of pages20
JournalMedical physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • cone-beam computed tomography
  • image quality
  • imaging phantom
  • quality assurance
  • workflow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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