Radiation imaging physics
Characterization of scatter in digital mammography from physical measurements
That scattered radiation negatively impacts the quality of medical radiographic imaging is well known. In mammography, even slight amounts of scatter reduce the high contrast required for subtle soft-tissue imaging. In current clinical mammography, image contrast is partially improved by use of an antiscatter grid. This form of scatter rejection comes with a sizeable dose penalty related to the concomitant elimination of valuable primary radiation. Digital mammography allows the use of image processing as a method of scatter correction that might avoid effects that negatively impact primary radiation, while potentially providing more contrast improvement than is currently possible with a grid. For this approach to be feasible, a detailed characterization of the scatter is needed. Previous research has modeled scatter as a constant background that serves as a DC bias across the imaging surface. The goal of this study was to provide a more substantive data set for characterizing the spatially-variant features of scatter radiation at the image detector of modern mammography units.
This data set was acquired from a model of the radiation beam as a matrix of very narrow rays or pencil beams. As each pencil beam penetrates tissue, the pencil widens in a predictable manner due to the production of scatter. The resultant spreading of the pencil beam at the detector surface can be characterized by two parameters: mean radial extent (MRE) and scatter fraction (SF). The SF and MRE were calculated from measurements obtained using the beam stop method. Two digital mammography units were utilized, and the SF and MRE were found as functions of target, filter, tube potential, phantom thickness, and presence or absence of a grid. These values were then used to generate general equations allowing the SF and MRE to be calculated for any combination of the above parameters.
With a grid, the SF ranged from a minimum of about 0.05 to a maximum of about 0.16, and the MRE ranged from about 3 to 13 mm. Without a grid, the SF ranged from a minimum of 0.25 to a maximum of 0.52, and the MRE ranged from about 20 to 45 mm. The SF with a grid demonstrated a mild dependence on target/filter combination and kV, whereas the SF without a grid was independent of these factors. The MRE demonstrated a complex relationship as a function of kV, with notable difference among target/filter combinations. The primary source of change in both the SF and MRE was phantom thickness.
Because breast tissue varies spatially in physical density and elemental content, the effective thickness of breast tissue varies spatially across the imaging field, resulting in a spatially-variant scatter distribution in the imaging field. The data generated in this study can be used to characterize the scatter contribution on a point-by-point basis, for a variety of different techniques.