Objectives: We demonstrate the soft tissue discrimination capability of X-ray dark-field imaging (XDFI) using a variety of human tissue specimens.
Methods: The experimental setup for XDFI comprises an X-ray source, an asymmetrically cut Bragg-type monochromator-collimator (MC), a Laue-case angle analyser (LAA) and a CCD camera. The specimen is placed between the MC and the LAA. For the light source, we used the beamline BL14C on a 2.5-GeV storage ring in the KEK Photon Factory, Tsukuba, Japan.
Results: In the eye specimen, phase contrast images from XDFI were able to discriminate soft-tissue structures, such as the iris, separated by aqueous humour on both sides, which have nearly equal absorption. Superiority of XDFI in imaging soft tissue was further demonstrated with a diseased iliac artery containing atherosclerotic plaque and breast samples with benign and malignant tumours. XDFI on breast tumours discriminated between the normal and diseased terminal duct lobular unit and between invasive and in-situ cancer.
Conclusions: X-ray phase, as detected by XDFI, has superior contrast over absorption for soft tissue processes such as atherosclerotic plaque and breast cancer.
Key points: • X-ray dark field imaging (XDFI) can dramatically increase sensitivity of phase detection. • XDFI can provide enhanced soft tissue discrimination. • With XDFI, abnormal anatomy can be visualised with high spatial/contrast resolution.