Generation and analysis of clinically relevant breast imaging x-ray spectra

Andrew M. Hernandez, J Anthony Seibert, Anita Nosratieh, John M Boone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this work was to develop and make available x-ray spectra for some of the most widely used digital mammography (DM), breast tomosynthesis (BT), and breast CT (bCT) systems in North America. Methods: The Monte Carlo code MCNP6 was used to simulate minimally filtered (only beryllium) x-ray spectra at 8 tube potentials from 20 to 49 kV for DM/BT, and 9 tube potentials from 35 to 70 kV for bCT. Vendor-specific anode compositions, effective anode angles, focal spot sizes, source-todetector distances, and beryllium filtration were simulated. For each 0.5 keV energy bin in all simulated spectra, the fluence was interpolated using cubic splines across the range of simulated tube potentials to produce spectra in 1 kV increments from 20 to 49 kV for DM/BT and from 35 to 70 kV for bCT. The HVL of simulated spectra with conventional filtration (at 35 kV for DM/BT and 49 kV for bCT) was used to assess spectral differences resulting from variations in: (a) focal spot size (0.1 and 0.3 mm IEC), (b) solid angle at the detector (i.e., small and large FOV size), and (c) geometrical specifications for vendors that employ the same anode composition. Results: Averaged across all DM/BT vendors, variations in focal spot and FOV size resulted in HVL differences of 2.2% and 0.9%, respectively. Comparing anode compositions separately, the HVL differences for Mo (GE, Siemens) and W (Hologic, Philips, and Siemens) spectra were 0.3% and 0.6%, respectively. Both the commercial Koning and prototype "Doheny" (UC Davis) bCT systems utilize W anodes with a 0.3 mm focal spot. Averaged across both bCT systems, variations in FOV size resulted in a 2.2% difference in HVL. In addition, the Koning spectrum was slightly harder than Doheny with a 4.2% difference in HVL. Therefore to reduce redundancy, a generic DM/BT system and a generic bCT system were used to generate the new spectra reported herein. The spectral models for application to DM/BT were dubbed the Molybdenum, Rhodium, and Tungsten Anode Spectral Models using Interpolating Cubic Splines (MASMICSM-T, RASMICSM-T, and TASMICSM-T; subscript "M-T" indicating mammography and tomosynthesis). When compared against reference models (MASMIPM, RASMIPM, and TASMIPM; subscript "M" indicating mammography), the new spectral models were in close agreement with mean differences of 1.3%, ±1.3%, and ±3.3%, respectively, across tube potential comparisons of 20, 30, and 40 kV with conventional filtration. TASMICSbCT-generated bCT spectra were also in close agreement with the reference TASMIP model with a mean difference of ±0.8%, across tube potential comparisons of 35, 49, and 70 kV with 1.5 mm Al filtration. Conclusions: The Mo, Rh, and W anode spectra for application in DM and BT (MASMICSM-T, RASMICSM-T, and TASMICSM-T) and the Wanode spectra for bCT (TASMICSbCT) as described in this study should be useful for individuals interested in modeling the performance of modern breast x-ray imaging systems including dual-energy mammography which extends to 49 kV. These new spectra are tabulated in spreadsheet form and are made available to any interested party.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2148-2160
Number of pages13
JournalMedical Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Breast computed tomography
  • Breast tomosynthesis
  • Digital mammography
  • Spectral modeling
  • X-ray spectra

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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