Estimating breast thickness for dual-energy subtraction in contrast-enhanced digital mammography using calibration phantoms
Dual-energy contrast-enhanced digital mammography (DE CE-DM) uses an iodinated contrast agent to image the perfusion and vasculature of the breast. DE images are obtained by a weighted logarithmic subtraction of the high-energy (HE) and low-energy (LE) image pairs. We hypothesized that the optimal DE subtraction weighting factor is thickness-dependent, and developed a method for determining breast tissue composition and thickness in DE CE-DM. Phantoms were constructed using uniform blocks of 100% glandular-equivalent and 100% adipose-equivalent material. The thickness of the phantoms ranged from 3 to 8 cm, in 1 cm increments. For a given thickness, the glandular-adipose composition of the phantom was varied using different combinations of blocks. The logarithmic LE and logarithmic HE signal intensities were measured; they decrease linearly with increasing glandularity for a given thickness. The signals decrease with increasing phantom thickness and the x-ray signal decreases linearly with thickness for a given glandularity. As the thickness increases, the attenuation difference per additional glandular block decreases, indicating beam hardening. From the calibration mapping, we have demonstrated that we can predict percent glandular tissue and thickness when given two distinct signal intensities. Our results facilitate the subtraction of tissue at the boundaries of the breast, and aid in discriminating between contrast agent uptake in glandular tissue and subtraction artifacts.