Objectives: Differential phase contrast and scattering-based x-ray mammography has the potential to provide additional and complementary clinically relevant information compared with absorption-based mammography. The purpose of our study was to provide a first statistical evaluation of the imaging capabilities of the new technique compared with digital absorption mammography.
Materials and methods: We investigated non-fixed mastectomy samples of 33 patients with invasive breast cancer, using grating-based differential phase contrast mammography (mammoDPC) with a conventional, low-brilliance x-ray tube. We simultaneously recorded absorption, differential phase contrast, and small-angle scattering signals that were combined into novel high-frequency-enhanced images with a dedicated image fusion algorithm. Six international, expert breast radiologists evaluated clinical digital and experimental mammograms in a 2-part blinded, prospective independent reader study. The results were statistically analyzed in terms of image quality and clinical relevance.
Results: The results of the comparison of mammoDPC with clinical digital mammography revealed the general quality of the images to be significantly superior (P < 0.001); sharpness, lesion delineation, as well as the general visibility of calcifications to be significantly more assessable (P < 0.001); and delineation of anatomic components of the specimens (surface structures) to be significantly sharper (P < 0.001). Spiculations were significantly better identified, and the overall clinically relevant information provided by mammoDPC was judged to be superior (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that complementary information provided by phase and scattering enhanced mammograms obtained with the mammoDPC approach deliver images of generally superior quality. This technique has the potential to improve radiological breast diagnostics.