The effect of amorphous selenium detector thickness on dual-energy digital breast imaging




Contrast enhanced (CE) imaging techniques for both planar digital mammography (DM) and three-dimensional (3D) digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) applications requires x-ray photon energies higher than the k-edge of iodine (33.2 keV). As a result, x-ray tube potentials much higher (>40 kVp) than those typical for screening mammography must be utilized. Amorphous selenium (a-Se) based direct conversion flat-panel imagers (FPI) have been widely used in DM and DBT imaging systems. The a-Se layer is typically 200 μm thick with quantum detective efficiency (QDE) >87% for x-ray energies below 26 keV. However, QDE decreases substantially above this energy. To improve the object detectability of either CE-DM or CE-DBT, it may be advantageous to increase the thickness (dSe) of the a-Se layer. Increasing the dSe will improve the detective quantum efficiency (DQE) at the higher energies used in CE imaging. However, because most DBT systems are designed with partially isocentric geometries, where the gantry moves about a stationary detector, the oblique entry of x-rays will introduce additional blur to the system. The present investigation quantifies the effect of a-Se thickness on imaging performance for both CE-DM and CE-DBT, discussing the effects of improving photon absorption and blurring from oblique entry of x-rays.


In this paper, a cascaded linear system model (CLSM) was used to investigate the effect of dSe on the imaging performance (i.e., MTF, NPS, and DQE) of FPI in CE-DM and CE-DBT. The results from the model are used to calculate the ideal observer signal-to-noise ratio, d′, which is used as a figure-of-merit to determine the total effect of increasing dSe for CE-DM and CE-DBT.


The results of the CLSM show that increasing dSe causes a substantial increase in QDE at the high energies used in CE-DM. However, at the oblique projection angles used in DBT, the increased length of penetration through a-Se introduces additional image blur. The reduced MTF and DQE at high spatial frequencies lead to reduced two-dimensional d′. These losses in projection image resolution may subsequently result in a decrease in the 3D d′, but the degree of which is largely dependent on the DBT reconstruction algorithm. For a filtered backprojection (FBP) algorithm with spectral apodization and slice-thickness filters, which dominate the blur for reconstructed images at oblique angles, the effect of oblique entry of x-rays on 3D d′ is minimal. Thus, increasing dSe results in an improvement in d′ for both CE-DM and CE-DBT with typical FBP reconstruction parameters.


Increased dSe improves CE breast imaging performance by increasing QDE of detectors at higher energies, e.g., 49 kVp. Although there is additional blur in the oblique angled projections of a DBT scan, the overall 3D d′ for DBT is not degraded because the dominant source blur at these angles results from the reconstruction filters of the employed FBP algorithm.