Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Andrew D. Maidment


Digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) is a 3D imaging modality in which a reconstruction of the breast is generated from various x-ray projections. Due to the newness of this technology, the development of an analytical model of image quality has been on-going. In this thesis, a more complete model is developed by addressing the limitations found in the previous linear systems (LS) model [Zhao, Med. Phys. 2008, 35(12): 5219-32].

A central assumption of the LS model is that the angle of x-ray incidence is approximately normal to the detector in each projection. To model the effect of oblique x-ray incidence, this thesis generalizes Swank's calculations of the transfer functions of x-ray fluorescent screens to arbitrary incident angles. In the LS model, it is also assumed that the pixelation in the reconstruction grid is the same as the detector; hence, the highest frequency that can be resolved is the detector alias frequency. This thesis considers reconstruction grids with smaller pixelation to investigate super-resolution, or visibility of higher frequencies. A sine plate is introduced as a conceptual test object to analyze super-resolution. By orienting the long axis of the sine plate at various angles, the feasibility of oblique reconstruction planes is also investigated. This formulation differs from the LS model in which reconstruction planes are parallel to the breast support.

It is shown that the transfer functions for arbitrary angles of x-ray incidence can be modeled in closed form. The high frequency modulation transfer function (MTF) and detective quantum efficiency (DQE) are degraded due to oblique x-ray incidence. In addition, using the sine plate, it is demonstrated that a reconstruction can resolve frequencies exceeding the detector alias frequency. Experimental images of bar patterns verified the existence of super-resolution. Anecdotal clinical examples showed that super-resolution improves the visibility of microcalcifications. The feasibility of oblique reconstructions was established theoretically with the sine plate and was validated experimentally with bar patterns.

This thesis develops a more complete model of image quality in DBT by addressing the limitations of the LS model. In future studies, this model can be used as a tool for optimizing DBT.

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