This study aimed at assessing the feasibility of a discrete algebraic reconstruction technique (DART) to be used in in vivo small animal bone studies. The advantage of discrete tomography is the possibility to reduce the amount of X-ray projection images, which makes scans faster and implies also a significant reduction of radiation dose, without compromising the reconstruction results. Bone studies are ideal for being performed with discrete tomography, due to the relatively small number of attenuation coefficients contained in the image [namely three: background (air), soft tissue and bone]. In this paper, a validation is made by comparing trabecular bone morphometric parameters calculated from images obtained by using DART and the commonly used standard filtered back-projection (FBP). Female rats were divided into an ovariectomized (OVX) and a sham-operated group. In vivo micro-CT scanning of the tibia was done at baseline and at 2, 4, 8 and 12 weeks after surgery. The cross-section images were reconstructed using first the full set of projection images and afterwards reducing them in number to a quarter and one-sixth (248, 62, 42 projection images, respectively). For both reconstruction methods, similar changes in morphometric parameters were observed over time: bone loss for OVX and bone growth for sham-operated rats, although for DART the actual values were systematically higher (bone volume fraction) or lower (structure model index) compared to FBP, depending on the morphometric parameter. The DART algorithm was, however, more robust when using fewer projection images, where the standard FBP reconstruction was more prone to noise, showing a significantly bigger deviation from the morphometric parameters obtained using all projection images. This study supports the use of DART as a potential alternative method to FBP in X-ray micro-CT animal studies, in particular, when the number of projections has to be drastically minimized, which directly reduces scanning time and dose.
- Bone morphological parameters
- Discrete tomography
- Small animal imaging
- X-ray micro-CT