University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


Investigation of statistical iterative reconstruction for dedicated breast CT

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Radiology



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

*Algorithms; *Breast; Breast Diseases; Humans; Image Processing, Computer-Assisted; Likelihood Functions; Mammography; Phantoms, Imaging; Tomography, X-Ray Computed


Biological and Chemical Physics | Medical Biophysics | Radiology


PURPOSE: Dedicated breast CT has great potential for improving the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. Statistical iterative reconstruction (SIR) in dedicated breast CT is a promising alternative to traditional filtered backprojection (FBP). One of the difficulties in using SIR is the presence of free parameters in the algorithm that control the appearance of the resulting image. These parameters require tuning in order to achieve high quality reconstructions. In this study, the authors investigated the penalized maximum likelihood (PML) method with two commonly used types of roughness penalty functions: hyperbolic potential and anisotropic total variation (TV) norm. Reconstructed images were compared with images obtained using standard FBP. Optimal parameters for PML with the hyperbolic prior are reported for the task of detecting microcalcifications embedded in breast tissue.

METHODS: Computer simulations were used to acquire projections in a half-cone beam geometry. The modeled setup describes a realistic breast CT benchtop system, with an x-ray spectra produced by a point source and an a-Si, CsI:Tl flat-panel detector. A voxelized anthropomorphic breast phantom with 280 mum microcalcification spheres embedded in it was used to model attenuation properties of the uncompressed woman's breast in a pendant position. The reconstruction of 3D images was performed using the separable paraboloidal surrogates algorithm with ordered subsets. Task performance was assessed with the ideal observer detectability index to determine optimal PML parameters.

RESULTS: The authors' findings suggest that there is a preferred range of values of the roughness penalty weight and the edge preservation threshold in the penalized objective function with the hyperbolic potential, which resulted in low noise images with high contrast microcalcifications preserved. In terms of numerical observer detectability index, the PML method with optimal parameters yielded substantially improved performance (by a factor of greater than 10) compared to FBP. The hyperbolic prior was also observed to be superior to the TV norm. A few of the best-performing parameter pairs for the PML method also demonstrated superior performance for various radiation doses. In fact, using PML with certain parameter values results in better images, acquired using 2 mGy dose, than FBP-reconstructed images acquired using 6 mGy dose.

CONCLUSIONS: A range of optimal free parameters for the PML algorithm with hyperbolic and TV norm-based potentials is presented for the microcalcification detection task, in dedicated breast CT. The reported values can be used as starting values of the free parameters, when SIR techniques are used for image reconstruction. Significant improvement in image quality can be achieved by using PML with optimal combination of parameters, as compared to FBP. Importantly, these results suggest improved detection of microcalcifications can be obtained by using PML with lower radiation dose to the patient, than using FBP with higher dose.

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Citation: Med Phys. 2013 Aug;40(8):081904. doi: 10.1118/1.4811328. Link to article on publisher's site

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Link to Article in PubMed