Spectral image quality and applications in breast tomosynthesis

University dissertation from Stockholm : Kungliga Tekniska högskolan

Abstract: In the 1970s, it was determined that screening mammography is an efficient tool in fighting the increasing number of women dying from breast cancer, and many countries have established screening programs since then. Mammography systems have improved substantially over the years with one of the major advances being the transition from x-ray film to digital x-ray detectors. Following this development, the number of women dying from breast cancer has decreased, but there is still much room for improvement. One technology that is changing the breast imaging landscape is breast tomosynthesis; tomographic imaging with in-plane resolution similar to that of mammography, albeit limited height resolution. Breast tomosynthesis is commonly implemented with flat-panel detectors, but line detectors in a slit-scanning geometry can also be used. The latter configuration allows for more complex detector technologies, such as spectral photon-counting detectors that enable single-shot spectral imaging. The combination of spectral imaging and tomosynthesis opens up for a range of new applications, but the slit scanning geometry, which differs substantially from that of flat-panel tomosynthesis systems, and the factors affecting image quality have not been well understood. This thesis aims at filling this gap. Image quality and the parameters that influence image quality in spectral photon-counting slit-scanning breast tomosynthesis are characterized and analyzed using cascaded-systems modelling and linear image quality metrics. In addition, the thesis goes into characterizing the x-ray properties of breast tissue, an important input parameter for accurate material decomposition of in-vivo tissue. Material decomposition with spectral imaging opens up a range of applications, such as accurate measurement of volumetric breast density and spectral lesion characterization for decision support as part of mammography screening, and contrast-enhanced K-edge imaging for diagnostics. Tomosynthesis combined with material decomposition has the potential to improve these methods further by, for instance, separating lesions or regions of interest from surrounding fibro-glandular tissue in quantitative 3D maps of breast tissue.