Automated modification and fusion of voxel models to construct body phantoms with heterogeneous breast tissue: Application to MRI simulations

J Biomed Graph Comput. 2017;7(1):1-7. doi: 10.5430/jbgc.v7n1p1. Epub 2017 Feb 26.


Background: Human voxel models incorporating detailed anatomical features are vital tools for the computational evaluation of electromagnetic (EM) fields within the body. Besides whole-body human voxel models, phantoms representing smaller heterogeneous anatomical features are often employed; for example, localized breast voxel models incorporating fatty and fibroglandular tissues have been developed for a variety of EM applications including mammography simulation and dosimetry, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultra-wideband microwave imaging. However, considering wavelength effects, electromagnetic modeling of the breast at sub-microwave frequencies necessitates detailed breast phantoms in conjunction with whole-body voxel models.

Methods: Heterogeneous breast phantoms are sized to fit within radiofrequency coil hardware, modified by voxel-wise extrusion, and fused to whole-body models using voxel-wise, tissue-dependent logical operators. To illustrate the utility of this method, finite-difference time-domain simulations are performed using a whole-body model integrated with a variety of available breast phantoms spanning the standard four tissue density classifications representing the majority of the population.

Results: The software library uses a combination of voxel operations to seamlessly size, modify, and fuse eleven breast phantoms to whole-body voxel models. The software is publicly available on GitHub and is linked to the file exchange at MATLAB® Central. Simulations confirm the proportions of fatty and fibroglandular tissues in breast phantoms have significant yet predictable implications on projected power deposition in tissue.

Conclusions: Breast phantoms may be modified and fused to whole-body voxel models using the software presented in this work; user considerations for the open-source software and resultant phantoms are discussed. Furthermore, results indicate simulating breast models as predominantly fatty tissue can considerably underestimate the potential for tissue heating in women with substantial fibroglandular tissue.

Keywords: Anatomic models; Breast; Computer simulations; Electromagnetic fields; Magnetic resonance imaging.