Spatial resolution of proton tomography: Methods, initial phase space and object thickness
PURPOSE: Proton radiography and tomography was investigated since the early 1970s because of its low radiation dose, high density resolution and ability to image directly proton stopping power. However, spatial resolution is still a limiting factor and as a consequence experimental methods and image reconstruction should be optimized to improve position resolution. METHODS: Spatial resolution of proton radiography and tomography is given by multiple Coloumb scattering (MCS) of the protons in the patient. In this paper we employ an improved MCS model to study the impact of various proton tomographic set-ups on the spatial resolution, such as different combinations of entrance and exit coordinate and angle measurements, respectively, initial particle energy and angular confusion of the incident proton field. RESULTS: It was found that best spatial resolution is obtained by measuring in addition to the entrance and exit coordinates also the entrance and exit angles. However, by applying partial backprojection and by using a perfect proton fan beam a sufficient spatial resolution can be achieved with less experimental complexity (measuring only exit angles). It was also shown that it is essential to use the most probable proton trajectory to improve spatial resolution. A simple straight line connection for image reconstruction results in a spatial resolution which is not clinically sufficient. The percentage deterioration of spatial resolution due to the angular confusion of the incident proton field is less than the phase space in mrad. A clinically realistic proton beam with 10 mrad angular confusion results in a less than 10% loss of spatial resolution. CONCLUSIONS: Clinically sufficient spatial resolution can be either achieved with a full measurement of entrance and exit coordinates and angles, but also by using a fan beam with small angular confusion and an exit angle measurement. It is necessary to use the most probable proton path for image reconstruction. A simple straight line connection is in general not sufficient. Increasing proton energy improves spatial resolution of an object of constant size. This should be considered in the design of proton therapy facilities.