Purpose: In this study, we used a small field high resolution detector in conjunction with a full field flat panel detector to implement and investigate the dual detector volume-of-interest (VOI) cone beam breast computed tomography (CBCT) technique on a bench-top system. The potential of using this technique to image small calcifications without increasing the overall dose to the breast was demonstrated. Significant reduction of scatter components in the high resolution projection image data of the VOI was also shown.
Methods: With the regular flat panel based CBCT technique, exposures were made at 80 kVp to generate an air kerma of 6 mGys at the isocenter. With the dual detector VOI CBCT technique, a high resolution small field CMOS detector was used to scan a cylindrical VOI (2.5 cm in diameter and height, 4.5 cm off-center) with collimated x-rays at four times of regular exposure level. A flat panel detector was used for full field scan with low x-ray exposures at half of the regular exposure level. The low exposure full field image data were used to fill in the truncated space in the VOI scan data and generate a complete projection image set. The Feldkamp-Davis-Kress (FDK) filtered backprojection algorithm was used to reconstruct high resolution images for the VOI. Two scanning techniques, one breast centered and the other VOI centered, were implemented and investigated. Paraffin cylinders with embedded thin aluminum (Al) wires were imaged and used in conjunction with optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dose measurements to demonstrate the ability of this technique to image small calcifications without increasing the mean glandular dose (MGD).
Results: Using exposures that produce an air kerma of 6 mGys at the isocenter, the regular CBCT technique was able to resolve the cross-sections of Al wires as thin as 254 μm in diameter in the phantom. For the specific VOI studied, by increasing the exposure level by a factor of 4 for the VOI scan and reducing the exposure level by a factor of 2 for the full filed scan, the dual-detector CBCT technique was able to resolve the cross-sections of Al wires as thin as 152 μm in diameter. The CNR evaluated for the entire Al wire cross-section was found to be improved from 5.5 in regular CBCT to 14.4 and 16.8 with the breast centered and VOI centered scanning techniques, respectively. Even inside VOI center, the VOI scan resulted in significant dose saving with the dose reduced by a factor of 1.6 at the VOI center. Dose saving outside the VOI was substantial with the dose reduced by a factor of 7.3 and 7.8 at the breast center for the breast centered and VOI centered scans, respectively, when compared to full field scan at the same exposure level. The differences between the two dual detector techniques in terms of dose saving and scatter reduction were small with VOI scan at 4× exposure level and full field scan at 0.5 × exposure level. The MGDs were only 94% of that from the regular CBCT scan.
Conclusions: For the specific VOI studied, the dual detector VOI CBCT technique has the potential to provide high quality images inside the VOI with MGD similar to or even lower than that of full field breast CBCT. It was also found that our results were compromised by the use of inadequate detectors for the VOI scan. An appropriately selected detector would better optimize the image quality improvement that can be achieved with the VOI CBCT technique.