Diagnostic X-ray imaging depends on the maintenance of image quality that allows for proper diagnosis of medical conditions. Maintenance of image quality requires quality assurance programs on the various X-ray modalities, which consist of projection radiography (including mobile X-ray units), fluoroscopy, mammography, and computed tomography (CT) scanning. Currently a variety of modality-specific phantoms are used to perform quality assurance (QA) tests. These phantoms are not only expensive, but suitably trained personnel are needed to successfully use them and interpret the results. The question arose as to whether a single universal phantom could be designed and applied to all of the X-ray imaging modalities. A universal phantom would reduce initial procurement cost, possibly reduce the time spent on QA procedures and simplify training of staff on the single device. The aim of the study was to design and manufacture a prototype of a universal phantom, suitable for image quality assurance in general X-rays, fluoroscopy, mammography, and CT scanning. The universal phantom should be easy to use and would enable automatic data analysis, pass/fail reporting, and corrective action recommendation. In addition, a universal phantom would especially be of value in low-income countries where finances and human resources are limited. The design process included a thorough investigation of commercially available phantoms. Image quality parameters necessary for image quality assurance in the different X-ray imaging modalities were determined. Based on information obtained from the above-mentioned investigations, a prototype of a universal phantom was developed, keeping ease of use and reduced cost in mind. A variety of possible phantom housing and insert materials were investigated, considering physical properties, machinability, and cost. A three-dimensional computer model of the first phantom prototype was used to manufacture the prototype housing and inserts. Some of the inserts were 3D-printed, others were machined from different materials. The different components were assembled to form the first prototype of the universal X-ray imaging phantom. The resulting prototype of the universal phantom conformed to the aims of a single phantom for multiple imaging modalities, which would be easy to use and manufacture at a reduced cost. A PCT International Patent Application No. PCT/IB2016/051165 has been filed for this technology.
PACS number(s): 87.57.C, 87.59.-e