Medical imaging is often performed for the purpose of estimating a clinically relevant parameter. For example, cardiologists are interested in the cardiac ejection fraction, the fraction of blood pumped out of the left ventricle at the end of each heart cycle. Even when the primary task of the imaging system is tumor detection, physicians frequently want to estimate parameters of the tumor, e.g. size and location. For signal-detection tasks, we advocate that the performance of an ideal observer be employed as the figure of merit for optimizing medical imaging hardware. We have examined the use
of the minimum variance of the ideal, unbiased estimator as a figure of merit for hardware optimization. The minimum variance of the ideal, unbiased estimator can be calculated using the Fisher information matrix. To account for both image noise and object variability, we used a statistical method known as Markov-chain Monte Carlo. We employed a lumpy object model and simulated imaging systems to compute our figures of merit. We have demonstrated the use of this method in comparing imaging systems for estimation tasks.© (2003) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.