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Med Phys. 2011 Dec;38(12):6659-71. doi: 10.1118/1.3662868.

The simulation of 3D microcalcification clusters in 2D digital mammography and breast tomosynthesis.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, University Hospitals Leuven, Herestraat 49, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.



This work proposes a new method of building 3D models of microcalcification clusters and describes the validation of their realistic appearance when simulated into 2D digital mammograms and into breast tomosynthesis images.


A micro-CT unit was used to scan 23 breast biopsy specimens of microcalcification clusters with malignant and benign characteristics and their 3D reconstructed datasets were segmented to obtain 3D models of microcalcification clusters. These models were then adjusted for the x-ray spectrum used and for the system resolution and simulated into 2D projection images to obtain mammograms after image processing and into tomographic sequences of projection images, which were then reconstructed to form 3D tomosynthesis datasets. Six radiologists were asked to distinguish between 40 real and 40 simulated clusters of microcalcifications in two separate studies on 2D mammography and tomosynthesis datasets. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was used to test the ability of each observer to distinguish between simulated and real microcalcification clusters. The kappa statistic was applied to assess how often the individual simulated and real microcalcification clusters had received similar scores ("agreement") on their realistic appearance in both modalities. This analysis was performed for all readers and for the real and the simulated group of microcalcification clusters separately. "Poor" agreement would reflect radiologists' confusion between simulated and real clusters, i.e., lesions not systematically evaluated in both modalities as either simulated or real, and would therefore be interpreted as a success of the present models.


The area under the ROC curve, averaged over the observers, was 0.55 (95% confidence interval [0.44, 0.66]) for the 2D study, and 0.46 (95% confidence interval [0.29, 0.64]) for the tomosynthesis study, indicating no statistically significant difference between real and simulated lesions (pā€‰>ā€‰0.05). Agreement between allocated lesion scores for 2D mammography and those for the tomosynthesis series was poor.


The realistic appearance of the 3D models of microcalcification clusters, whether malignant or benign clusters, was confirmed for 2D digital mammography images and the breast tomosynthesis datasets; this database of clusters is suitable for use in future observer performance studies related to the detectability of microcalcification clusters. Such studies include comparing 2D digital mammography to breast tomosynthesis and comparing different reconstruction algorithms.

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