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Comparison of propagation-based CT using synchrotron radiation and conventional cone-beam CT for breast imaging



To evaluate and compare the image quality of propagation-based phase-contrast computed tomography (PB-CT) using synchrotron radiation and conventional cone-beam breast computed tomography (CBBCT) based on various radiological image quality criteria.


Eight excised breast tissue samples of various sizes and containing different lesion types were scanned using PB-CT at a synchrotron facility and using CBBCT at a university-affiliated breast imaging centre. PB-CT scans were performed at two different mean glandular dose (MGD) levels: standard (5.8 mGy) and low (1.5 mGy), for comparison with CBBCT scans at the standard MGD (5.8 mGy). Image quality assessment was carried out using six quality criteria and six independent medical imaging experts in a reading room with mammography workstations. The interobserver agreement between readers was evaluated using intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC), and image quality was compared between the two breast imaging modalities using the area under the visual grading characteristic curve (AUCVGC).


Interobserver agreement between the readers showed moderate reliability for five image criteria (ICC: ranging from 0.488 to 0.633) and low reliability for one criterion (image noise) (ICC 0.307). For five image quality criteria (overall quality, perceptible contrast, lesion sharpness, normal tissue interfaces, and calcification visibility), both standard-dose PB-CT images (AUCVGC 0.958 to 1, p ≤ .05) and low dose PB-CT images (AUCVGC 0.785 to 0.834, p ≤ .05) were of significantly higher image quality than standard-dose CBBCT images.


Synchrotron-based PB-CT can achieve a significantly higher radiological image quality at a substantially lower radiation dose compared with conventional CBBCT.

Key Points

• PB-CT using synchrotron radiation results in higher image quality than conventional CBBCT for breast imaging.

• PB-CT using synchrotron radiation requires a lower radiation dose than conventional CBBCT for breast imaging.

• PB-CT can help clinicians diagnose patients with breast cancer.

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Area under the visual grading characteristic curve


Cone-beam breast CT


Digital breast tomosynthesis


Ductal carcinoma in situ


Intraclass correlation coefficient


Iterative filtered back projection




Mean glandular dose


Multiple-reader, multiple-case


Propagation-based phase-contrast CT


Receiver operating characteristic


Simultaneous iterative reconstruction technique


Homogeneous transport of intensity equation


Visual grading characteristics


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This study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia (#APP1138283). Travel funding was also provided by the International Synchrotron Access Program (ISAP) managed by the ANSTO - Australian Synchrotron and funded by the Australian Government.

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Correspondence to Seyedamir Tavakoli Taba.

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The scientific guarantor of this publication is Prof. Patrick Brennan.

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The authors of this manuscript declare no relationships with any companies whose products or services may be related to the subject matter of the article.

Statistics and biometry

Two of the authors have significant statistical expertise.

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Written informed consent was obtained from all subjects (patients) in this study.

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Institutional Review Board approval was obtained.


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Tavakoli Taba, S., Baran, P., Nesterets, Y.I. et al. Comparison of propagation-based CT using synchrotron radiation and conventional cone-beam CT for breast imaging. Eur Radiol 30, 2740–2750 (2020).

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  • Tomography, X-ray computed
  • Breast
  • Cone-beam computed tomography
  • Synchrotrons
  • Mammography