The purposes of this study were to optimize a proton computed tomography system (pCT) for proton range verification and to confirm the pCT image reconstruction algorithm based on projection images generated with optimized parameters. For this purpose, we developed a new pCT scanner using the Geometry and Tracking (GEANT) 4.9.6 simulation toolkit. GEANT4 simulations were performed to optimize the geometric parameters representing the detector thickness and the distance between the detectors for pCT. The system consisted of four silicon strip detectors for particle tracking and a calorimeter to measure the residual energies of the individual protons. The optimized pCT system design was then adjusted to ensure that the solution to a CS-based convex optimization problem would converge to yield the desired pCT images after a reasonable number of iterative corrections. In particular, we used a total variation-based formulation that has been useful in exploiting prior knowledge about the minimal variations of proton attenuation characteristics in the human body. Examinations performed using our CS algorithm showed that high-quality pCT images could be reconstructed using sets of 72 projections within 20 iterations and without any streaks or noise, which can be caused by under-sampling and proton starvation. Moreover, the images yielded by this CS algorithm were found to be of higher quality than those obtained using other reconstruction algorithms. The optimized pCT scanner system demonstrated the potential to perform high-quality pCT during on-line image-guided proton therapy, without increasing the imaging dose, by applying our CS based proton CT reconstruction algorithm. Further, we make our optimized detector system and CS-based proton CT reconstruction algorithm potentially useful in on-line proton therapy.
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