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Developments in Monte Carlo Methods for Medical Imaging

A Badal
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W Zbijewski

W Bolch

I Sechopoulos

A Badal1*, W Zbijewski2*, W Bolch3*, I Sechopoulos4*, (1) U.S. Food & Drug Administration (CDRH/OSEL), Silver Spring, MD, (2) Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, (3) University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, (4) Emory University, Atlanta, GA


TH-E-18A-1 Thursday 1:00PM - 2:50PM Room: 18A

Monte Carlo simulation methods are widely used in medical physics research and are starting to be implemented in clinical applications such as radiation therapy planning systems. Monte Carlo simulations offer the capability to accurately estimate quantities of interest that are challenging to measure experimentally while taking into account the realistic anatomy of an individual patient. Traditionally, practical application of Monte Carlo simulation codes in diagnostic imaging was limited by the need for large computational resources or long execution times. However, recent advancements in high-performance computing hardware, combined with a new generation of Monte Carlo simulation algorithms and novel post-processing methods, are allowing for the computation of relevant imaging parameters of interest such as patient organ doses and scatter-to-primary-ratios in radiographic projections in just a few seconds using affordable computational resources. Programmable Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), for example, provide a convenient, affordable platform for parallelized Monte Carlo executions that yield simulation times on the order of 10⁷ x-ray/s. Even with GPU acceleration, however, Monte Carlo simulation times can be prohibitive for routine clinical practice. To reduce simulation times further, variance reduction techniques can be used to alter the probabilistic models underlying the x-ray tracking process, resulting in lower variance in the results without biasing the estimates. Other complementary strategies for further reductions in computation time are denoising of the Monte Carlo estimates and estimating (scoring) the quantity of interest at a sparse set of sampling locations (e.g. at a small number of detector pixels in a scatter simulation) followed by interpolation.

Beyond reduction of the computational resources required for performing Monte Carlo simulations in medical imaging, the use of accurate representations of patient anatomy is crucial to the virtual generation of medical images and accurate estimation of radiation dose and other imaging parameters. For this, detailed computational phantoms of the patient anatomy must be utilized and implemented within the radiation transport code. Computational phantoms presently come in one of three format types, and in one of four morphometric categories. Format types include stylized (mathematical equation-based), voxel (segmented CT/MR images), and hybrid (NURBS and polygon mesh surfaces). Morphometric categories include reference (small library of phantoms by age at 50th height/weight percentile), patient-dependent (larger library of phantoms at various combinations of height/weight percentiles), patient-sculpted (phantoms altered to match the patient's unique outer body contour), and finally, patient-specific (an exact representation of the patient with respect to both body contour and internal anatomy). The existence and availability of these phantoms represents a very important advance for the simulation of realistic medical imaging applications using Monte Carlo methods.

New Monte Carlo simulation codes need to be thoroughly validated before they can be used to perform novel research. Ideally, the validation process would involve comparison of results with those of an experimental measurement, but accurate replication of experimental conditions can be very challenging. It is very common to validate new Monte Carlo simulations by replicating previously published simulation results of similar experiments. This process, however, is commonly problematic due to the lack of sufficient information in the published reports of previous work so as to be able to replicate the simulation in detail. To aid in this process, the AAPM Task Group 195 prepared a report in which six different imaging research experiments commonly performed using Monte Carlo simulations are described and their results provided. The simulation conditions of all six cases are provided in full detail, with all necessary data on material composition, source, geometry, scoring and other parameters provided. The results of these simulations when performed with the four most common publicly available Monte Carlo packages are also provided in tabular form. The Task Group 195 Report will be useful for researchers needing to validate their Monte Carlo work, and for trainees needing to learn Monte Carlo simulation methods.

In this symposium we will review the recent advancements in high-performance computing hardware enabling the reduction in computational resources needed for Monte Carlo simulations in medical imaging. We will review variance reduction techniques commonly applied in Monte Carlo simulations of medical imaging systems and present implementation strategies for efficient combination of these techniques with GPU acceleration. Trade-offs involved in Monte Carlo acceleration by means of denoising and "sparse sampling" will be discussed. A method for rapid scatter correction in cone-beam CT (<5 min/scan) will be presented as an illustration of the simulation speeds achievable with optimized Monte Carlo simulations. We will also discuss the development, availability, and capability of the various combinations of computational phantoms for Monte Carlo simulation of medical imaging systems. Finally, we will review some examples of experimental validation of Monte Carlo simulations and will present the AAPM Task Group 195 Report.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the advances in hardware available for performing Monte Carlo simulations in high performance computing environments.
2. Explain variance reduction, denoising and sparse sampling techniques available for reduction of computational time needed for Monte Carlo simulations of medical imaging.
3. List and compare the computational anthropomorphic phantoms currently available for more accurate assessment of medical imaging parameters in Monte Carlo simulations.
4. Describe experimental methods used for validation of Monte Carlo simulations in medical imaging.
5. Describe the AAPM Task Group 195 Report and its use for validation and teaching of Monte Carlo simulations in medical imaging.


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