Image reconstruction in optical tomography is a nonlinear and generally ill- posed inverse problem. Noise in the measured surface data can give rise to substantial artifacts in the recovered volume images of optical coefficients. Apart from random shot noise caused by the limited number of photons detected at the measurement site, another class of systematic noise is associated with losses specific to individual source and detector locations. A common cause for such losses in data acquisition systems based on fiber-optic light delivery is the imperfect coupling between the fiber tips and the skin of the patient because of air gaps or surface moisture. Thus the term coupling errors was coined for this type of data noise. However, source and detector specific errors can also occur in noncontact measurement systems not using fiber-optic delivery, for example, owing to local skin pigmentation, hair and hair follicles, or instrumentation calibration errors. Often it is not possible to quantify coupling effects in a way that allows us to remove them from the data or incorporate them into the light transport model. We present an alternative method of eliminating coupling errors by regarding the complex-valued coupling factors for each source and detector as unknowns in the reconstruction process and recovering them simultaneously with the images of absorption and scattering. Our method takes into account the possibility that coupling effects have an influence on both the amplitude and the phase shift of the measurements. Reconstructions from simulated and experimental phantom data are presented, which show that including the coupling coefficients in the reconstruction greatly improves the recovery of absorption and scattering images.
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