Classification of breast computed tomography data

Thomas R. Nelson, Laura I. Cerviño, John M Boone, Karen K Lindfors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Differences in breast tissue composition are important determinants in assessing risk, identifying disease in images and following changes over time. This paper presents an algorithm for tissue classification that separates breast tissue into its three primary constituents of skin, fat and glandular tissue. We have designed and built a dedicated breast CT scanner. Fifty-five normal volunteers and patients with mammographically identified breast lesions were scanned. Breast CT voxel data were filtered using a 5 pt median filter and the image histogram was computed. A two compartment Gaussian fit of histogram data was used to provide an initial estimate of tissue compartments. After histogram analysis, data were input to region-growing algorithms and classified as to belonging to skin, fat or gland based on their value and architectural features. Once tissues were classified, a more detailed analysis of glandular tissue patterns and a more quantitative analysis of breast composition was made. Algorithm performance assessment demonstrated very good or excellent agreement between algorithm and radiologist observers in 97.7% of the segmented data. We observed that even in dense breasts the fraction of glandular tissue seldom exceeded 50%. For most individuals the composition is better characterized as being a 70% (fat)-30% (gland) composition than a 50% (fat)-50% (gland) composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1078-1086
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008


  • Breast
  • Classification
  • Computed tomography
  • Segmentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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