Purpose: Since the introduction of clinical x-ray phase-contrast mammography (PCM), a technique that exploits refractive-index variations to create edge enhancement at tissue boundaries, a number of optimization studies employing physical image-quality metrics have been performed. Ideally, task-based assessment of PCM would have been conducted with human readers. These studies have been limited, however, in part due to the large parameter-space of PCM system configurations and the difficulty of employing expert readers for large-scale studies. It has been proposed that numerical observers can be used to approximate the statistical performance of human readers, thus enabling the study of task-based performance over a large parameter-space. Methods: Methods are presented for task-based image quality assessment of PCM images with a numerical observer, the most significant of which is an adapted lumpy background from the conventional mammography literature that accounts for the unique wavefield propagation physics of PCM image formation and will be used with a numerical observer to assess image quality. These methods are demonstrated by performing a PCM task-based image quality study using a numerical observer. This study employs a signal-known-exactly, background-known-statistically Bayesian ideal observer method to assess the detectability of a calcification object in PCM images when the anode spot size and calcification diameter are varied. Results: The first realistic model for the structured background in PCM images has been introduced. A numerical study demonstrating the use of this background model has compared PCM and conventional mammography detection of calcification objects. The study data confirm the strong PCM calcification detectability dependence on anode spot size. These data can be used to balance the trade-off between enhanced image quality and the potential for motion artifacts that comes with use of a reduced spot size and increased exposure time. Conclusions: A method has been presented for the incorporation of structured breast background data into task-based numerical observer assessment of PCM images. The method adapts conventional background simulation techniques to the wavefield propagation physics necessary for PCM imaging. This method is demonstrated with a simple detection task.
- background model
- task-based assessment
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging