Quantitative contrast-enhanced spectral mammography based on photon-counting detectors: A feasibility study

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To investigate the feasibility of accurate quantification of iodine mass thickness in contrast-enhanced spectral mammography.

Materials and methods:

A computer simulation model was developed to evaluate the performance of a photon-counting spectral mammography system in the application of contrast-enhanced spectral mammography. A figure-of-merit (FOM), which was defined as the decomposed iodine signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) with respect to the square root of the mean glandular dose (MGD), was chosen to optimize the imaging parameters, in terms of beam energy, splitting energy, and prefiltrations for breasts of various thicknesses and densities. Experimental phantom studies were also performed using a beam energy of 40 kVp and a splitting energy of 34 keV with 3 mm Al prefiltration. A two-step calibration method was investigated to quantify the iodine mass thickness, and was validated using phantoms composed of a mixture of glandular and adipose materials, for various breast thicknesses and densities. Finally, the traditional dual-energy log-weighted subtraction method was also studied as a comparison. The measured iodine signal from both methods was compared to the known value to characterize the quantification accuracy and precision.


The optimal imaging parameters, which lead to the highest FOM, were found at a beam energy between 42 and 46 kVp with a splitting energy at 34 keV. The optimal tube voltage decreased as the breast thickness or the Al prefiltration increased. The proposed quantification method was able to measure iodine mass thickness on phantoms of various thicknesses and densities with high accuracy. The root-mean-square (RMS) error for cm-scale lesion phantoms was estimated to be 0.20 mg/cm2. The precision of the technique, characterized by the standard deviation of the measurements, was estimated to be 0.18 mg/cm2. The traditional weighted subtraction method also predicted a linear correlation between the measured signal and the known iodine mass thickness. However, the correlation slope and offset values were strongly dependent on the total breast thickness and density.


The results of this study suggest that iodine mass thickness for cm-scale lesions can be accurately quantified with contrast-enhanced spectral mammography. The quantitative information can potentially improve the differential power for malignancy.

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