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Med Phys. 2010 Apr;37(4):1591-600.

Task-based assessment of breast tomosynthesis: effect of acquisition parameters and quantum noise.

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Department of Radiology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.



Tomosynthesis is a promising modality for breast imaging. The appearance of the tomosynthesis reconstructed image is greatly affected by the choice of acquisition and reconstruction parameters. The purpose of this study was to investigate the limitations of tomosynthesis breast imaging due to scan parameters and quantum noise. Tomosynthesis image quality was assessed based on performance of a mathematical observer model in a signal-known exactly (SKE) detection task.


SKE detectability (d') was estimated using a prewhitening observer model. Structured breast background was simulated using filtered noise. Detectability was estimated for designer nodules ranging from 0.05 to 0.8 cm in diameter. Tomosynthesis slices were reconstructed using iterative maximum-likelihood expectation-maximization. The tomosynthesis scan angle was varied between 15 degrees and 60 degrees, the number of views between 11 and 41 and the total number of x-ray quanta was infinity, 6 X 10(5), and 6 x 10(4). Detectability in tomosynthesis was compared to that in a single projection.


For constant angular sampling distance, increasing the angular scan range increased detectability for all signal sizes. Large-scale signals were little affected by quantum noise or angular sampling. For small-scale signals, quantum noise and insufficient angular sampling degraded detectability. At high quantum noise levels, angular step size of 3 degrees or below was sufficient to avoid image degradation. At lower quantum noise levels, increased angular sampling always resulted in increased detectability. The ratio of detectability in the tomosynthesis slice to that in a single projection exhibited a peak that shifted to larger signal sizes when the angular range increased. For a given angular range, the peak shifted toward smaller signals when the number of views was increased. The ratio was greater than unity for all conditions evaluated.


The effect of acquisition parameters on lesion detectability depends on signal size. Tomosynthesis scan angle had an effect on detectability for all signals sizes, while quantum noise and angular sampling only affected the detectability small-scale signals.

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