Synthetic CT generation from CBCT images via deep learning

Liyuan Chen, Xiao Liang, Chenyang Shen, Steve Jiang, Jing Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Purpose: Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) scanning is used daily or weekly (i.e., on-treatment CBCT) for accurate patient setup in image-guided radiotherapy. However, inaccuracy of CT numbers prevents CBCT from performing advanced tasks such as dose calculation and treatment planning. Motivated by the promising performance of deep learning in medical imaging, we propose a deep U-net-based approach that synthesizes CT-like images with accurate numbers from planning CT, while keeping the same anatomical structure as on-treatment CBCT. Methods: We formulated the CT synthesis problem under a deep learning framework, where a deep U-net architecture was used to take advantage of the anatomical structure of on-treatment CBCT and image intensity information of planning CT. U-net was chosen because it exploits both global and local features in the image spatial domain, matching our task to suppress global scattering artifacts and local artifacts such as noise in CBCT. To train the synthetic CT generation U-net (sCTU-net), we include on-treatment CBCT and initial planning CT of 37 patients (30 for training, seven for validation) as the input. Additional replanning CT images acquired on the same day as CBCT after deformable registration are utilized as the corresponding reference. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed sCTU-net, we use another seven independent patient cases (560 slices) for testing. Results: We quantitatively compared the resulting synthetic CT (sCT) with the original CBCT image using deformed same-day pCT images as reference. The averaged accuracy measured by mean absolute error (MAE) between sCT and reference CT (rCT) on testing data is 18.98 HU, while MAE between CBCT and rCT is 44.38 HU. Conclusions: The proposed sCTU-net can synthesize CT-quality images with accurate CT numbers from on-treatment CBCT and planning CT. This potentially enables advanced CBCT applications for adaptive treatment planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1115-1125
Number of pages11
JournalMedical physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • cone-beam CT
  • deep learning
  • synthetic CT generation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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