CT scanner x-ray spectrum estimation from transmission measurements

Xinhui Duan, Jia Wang, Lifeng Yu, Shuai Leng, Cynthia H. McCollough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Purpose: In diagnostic CT imaging, multiple important applications depend on the knowledge of the x-ray spectrum, including Monte Carlo dose calculations and dual-energy material decomposition analysis. Due to the high photon flux involved, it is difficult to directly measure spectra from the x-ray tube of a CT scanner. One potential method for indirect measurement involves estimating the spectrum from transmission measurements. The expectation maximization (EM) method is an accurate and robust method to solve this problem. In this article, this method was evaluated in a commercial CT scanner. Methods: Two step-wedges (polycarbonate and aluminum) were used to produce different attenuation levels. Transmission measurements were performed on the scanner and the measured data from the scanner were exported to an external computer to calculate the spectra. The EM method was applied to solve the equations that represent the attenuation processes of polychromatic x-ray photons. Estimated spectra were compared to the spectra simulated using a software provided by the manufacturer of the scanner. To test the accuracy of the spectra, a verification experiment was performed using a phantom containing different depths of water. The measured transmission data were compared to the transmission values calculated using the estimated spectra. Results: Spectra of 80, 100, 120, and 140 kVp from a dual-source CT scanner were estimated. The estimated and simulated spectra were well matched. The differences of mean energies were less than 1 keV. In the verification experiment, the measured and calculated transmission values were in excellent agreement. Conclusions: Spectrum estimation using transmission data and the EM method is a quantitatively accurate and robust technique to estimate the spectrum of a CT system. This method could benefit studies relying on accurate knowledge of the x-ray spectra from CT scanner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)993-997
Number of pages5
JournalMedical physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • CT scanner
  • transmission measurements
  • x-ray spectrum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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