University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


Investigation of energy weighting using an energy discriminating photon counting detector for breast CT

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Radiology



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

*Breast; Calcinosis; Carcinoma, Ductal; Durapatite; Image Processing, Computer-Assisted; Mammography; Phantoms, Imaging; *Photons; Scintillation Counting; Signal-To-Noise Ratio; Tomography, X-Ray Computed


Biological and Chemical Physics | Medical Biophysics | Radiology


PURPOSE: Breast CT is an emerging imaging technique that can portray the breast in 3D and improve visualization of important diagnostic features. Early clinical studies have suggested that breast CT has sufficient spatial and contrast resolution for accurate detection of masses and microcalcifications in the breast, reducing structural overlap that is often a limiting factor in reading mammographic images. For a number of reasons, image quality in breast CT may be improved by use of an energy resolving photon counting detector. In this study, the authors investigate the improvements in image quality obtained when using energy weighting with an energy resolving photon counting detector as compared to that with a conventional energy integrating detector.

METHODS: Using computer simulation, realistic CT images of multiple breast phantoms were generated. The simulation modeled a prototype breast CT system using an amorphous silicon (a-Si), CsI based energy integrating detector with different x-ray spectra, and a hypothetical, ideal CZT based photon counting detector with capability of energy discrimination. Three biological signals of interest were modeled as spherical lesions and inserted into breast phantoms; hydroxyapatite (HA) to represent microcalcification, infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC), and iodine enhanced infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IIDC). Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of these three lesions was measured from the CT reconstructions. In addition, a psychophysical study was conducted to evaluate observer performance in detecting microcalcifications embedded into a realistic anthropomorphic breast phantom. RESULTS: In the energy range tested, improvements in SNR with a photon counting detector using energy weighting was higher (than the energy integrating detector method) by 30%-63% and 4%-34%, for HA and IDC lesions and 12%-30% (with Al filtration) and 32%-38% (with Ce filtration) for the IIDC lesion, respectively. The average area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) for detection of microcalcifications was higher by greater than 19% (for the different energy weighting methods tested) as compared to the AUC obtained with an energy integrating detector.

CONCLUSIONS: This study showed that breast CT with a CZT photon counting detector using energy weighting can provide improvements in pixel SNR, and detectability of microcalcifications as compared to that with a conventional energy integrating detector. Since a number of degrading physical factors were not modeled into the photon counting detector, this improvement should be considered as an upper bound on achievable performance.

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Citation: Med Phys. 2013 Aug;40(8):081923. doi: 10.1118/1.4813901. Link to article on publisher's site

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Link to Article in PubMed