Three-dimensional linear system analysis for breast tomosynthesis

Bo Zhao, Wei Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


The optimization of digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) geometry and reconstruction is crucial for the clinical translation of this exciting new imaging technique. In the present work, the authors developed a three-dimensional (3D) cascaded linear system model for DBT to investigate the effects of detector performance, imaging geometry, and image reconstruction algorithm on the reconstructed image quality. The characteristics of a prototype DBT system equipped with an amorphous selenium flat-panel detector and filtered backprojection reconstruction were used as an example in the implementation of the linear system model. The propagation of signal and noise in the frequency domain was divided into six cascaded stages incorporating the detector performance, imaging geometry, and reconstruction filters. The reconstructed tomosynthesis imaging quality was characterized by spatial frequency dependent presampling modulation transfer function (MTF), noise power spectrum (NPS), and detective quantum efficiency (DQE) in 3D. The results showed that both MTF and NPS were affected by the angular range of the tomosynthesis scan and the reconstruction filters. For image planes parallel to the detector (in-plane), MTF at low frequencies was improved with increase in angular range. The shape of the NPS was affected by the reconstruction filters. Noise aliasing in 3D could be introduced by insufficient voxel sampling, especially in the z (slice-thickness) direction where the sampling distance (slice thickness) could be more than ten times that for in-plane images. Aliasing increases the noise at high frequencies, which causes degradation in DQE. Application of a reconstruction filter that limits the frequency components beyond the Nyquist frequency in the z direction, referred to as the slice thickness filter, eliminates noise aliasing and improves 3D DQE. The focal spot blur, which arises from continuous tube travel during tomosynthesis acquisition, could degrade DQE significantly because it introduces correlation in signal only, not NPS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5219-5232
Number of pages14
JournalMedical physics
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2008


  • Amorphous selenium
  • Breast imaging
  • DQE
  • Flat-panel detector
  • Focal spot blur
  • Linear system model
  • MTF
  • NPS
  • Tomosynthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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