Virtual clinical trials in medical imaging: A review

Ehsan Abadi, William P. Segars, Benjamin M.W. Tsui, Paul E. Kinahan, Nick Bottenus, Alejandro F. Frangi, Andrew Maidment, Joseph Lo, Ehsan Samei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The accelerating complexity and variety of medical imaging devices and methods have outpaced the ability to evaluate and optimize their design and clinical use. This is a significant and increasing challenge for both scientific investigations and clinical applications. Evaluations would ideally be done using clinical imaging trials. These experiments, however, are often not practical due to ethical limitations, expense, time requirements, or lack of ground truth. Virtual clinical trials (VCTs) (also known as in silico imaging trials or virtual imaging trials) offer an alternative means to efficiently evaluate medical imaging technologies virtually. They do so by simulating the patients, imaging systems, and interpreters. The field of VCTs has been constantly advanced over the past decades in multiple areas. We summarize the major developments and current status of the field of VCTs in medical imaging. We review the core components of a VCT: Computational phantoms, simulators of different imaging modalities, and interpretation models. We also highlight some of the applications of VCTs across various imaging modalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number042805
JournalJournal of Medical Imaging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • computational phantoms
  • in silico imaging
  • medical imaging simulation
  • simulations
  • virtual clinical trials
  • virtual imaging trials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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