Radiation imaging physics
Radiation doses in volume-of-interest breast computed tomography—A Monte Carlo simulation study
Cone beam breast computed tomography (breast CT) with true three-dimensional, nearly isotropic spatial resolution has been developed and investigated over the past decade to overcome the problem of lesions overlapping with breast anatomical structures on two-dimensional mammographic images. However, the ability of breast CT to detect small objects, such as tissue structure edges and small calcifications, is limited. To resolve this problem, the authors proposed and developed a volume-of-interest (VOI) breast CT technique to image a small VOI using a higher radiation dose to improve that region's visibility. In this study, the authors performed Monte Carlo simulations to estimate average breast dose and average glandular dose (AGD) for the VOI breast CT technique.
Electron–Gamma-Shower system code-based Monte Carlo codes were used to simulate breast CT. The Monte Carlo codes estimated were validated using physical measurements of air kerma ratios and point doses in phantoms with an ion chamber and optically stimulated luminescence dosimeters. The validated full cone x-ray source was then collimated to simulate half cone beam x-rays to image digital pendant-geometry, hemi-ellipsoidal, homogeneous breast phantoms and to estimate breast doses with full field scans. 13-cm in diameter, 10-cm long hemi-ellipsoidal homogeneous phantoms were used to simulate median breasts. Breast compositions of 25% and 50% volumetric glandular fractions (VGFs) were used to investigate the influence on breast dose. The simulated half cone beam x-rays were then collimated to a narrow x-ray beam with an area of 2.5 × 2.5 cm2 field of view at the isocenter plane and to perform VOI field scans. The Monte Carlo results for the full field scans and the VOI field scans were then used to estimate the AGD for the VOI breast CT technique.
The ratios of air kerma ratios and dose measurement results from the Monte Carlo simulation to those from the physical measurements were 0.97 ± 0.03 and 1.10 ± 0.13, respectively, indicating that the accuracy of the Monte Carlo simulation was adequate. The normalized AGD with VOI field scans was substantially reduced by a factor of about 2 over the VOI region and by a factor of 18 over the entire breast for both 25% and 50% VGF simulated breasts compared with the normalized AGD with full field scans. The normalized AGD for the VOI breast CT technique can be kept the same as or lower than that for a full field scan with the exposure level for the VOI field scan increased by a factor of as much as 12.
The authors’ Monte Carlo estimates of normalized AGDs for the VOI breast CT technique show that this technique can be used to markedly increase the dose to the breast and thus the visibility of the VOI region without increasing the dose to the breast. The results of this investigation should be helpful for those interested in using VOI breast CT technique to image small calcifications with dose concern.