Derivation of linear attenuation coefficients from CT numbers for low- energy photons

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One can estimate photon attenuation properties from the CT number. In a standard method one assumes that the linear attenuation coefficient is proportional to electron density and ignores its nonlinear dependence on atomic number. When the photon energy is lower than about 50 keV, such as for brachytherapy applications, however, photoelectric absorption and Rayleigh scattering become important. Hence the atomic number must be explicitly considered in estimating the linear attenuation coefficient. In this study we propose a method to more accurately estimate the linear attenuation coefficient of low-energy photons from CT numbers. We formulate an equation that relates the CT number to the electron density and the effective atomic number. We use a CT calibration phantom to determine unknown coefficients in the equation. The equation with a given CT number is then solved for the effective atomic number, which in turn is used to calculate the linear attenuation coefficient for low-energy photons. We use the CT phantom to test the new method. The method significantly improves the standard method in estimating the attenuation coefficient at low photon energies (20 keV ≤ E ≤ 40 keV) for materials with high atomic numbers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2201-2211
Number of pages11
JournalPhysics in Medicine and Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 1999


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