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A number of research groups have been investigating the use of dedicated breast computerized tomography (CT). Preliminary results have been encouraging, suggesting an improved visualization of masses on breast CT as compared to conventional mammography. Nonetheless, there are many challenges to overcome before breast CT can become a routine clinical reality. One potential improvement over current breast CT prototypes would be the use of photon counting detectors with cadmium zinc telluride (CZT) (or CdTe) semiconductor material. These detectors can operate at room temperature and provide high detection efficiency and the capability of multi-energy imaging; however, one factor in particular that limits image quality is the emission of characteristic x-rays. In this study, the degradative effects of characteristic x-rays are examined when using a CZT detector under breast CT operating conditions. Monte Carlo simulation software was used to evaluate the effect of characteristic x-rays and the detector element size on spatial and spectral resolution for a CZT detector used under breast CT operating conditions. In particular, lower kVp spectra and thinner CZT thicknesses were studied than that typically used with CZT based conventional CT detectors. In addition, the effect of characteristic x-rays on the accuracy of material decomposition in spectral CT imaging was explored. It was observed that when imaging with 50-60 kVp spectra, the x-ray transmission through CZT was very low for all detector thicknesses studied (0.5–3.0 mm), thus retaining dose efficiency. As expected, characteristic x-ray escape from the detector element of x-ray interaction increased with decreasing detector element size, approaching a 50% escape fraction for a 100 m size detector element. The detector point spread function was observed to have only minor degradation with detector element size greater than 200 m and lower kV settings. Characteristic x-rays produced increasing distortion in the spectral response with decreasing detector element size. If not corrected for, this caused a large bias in estimating tissue density parameters for material decomposition. It was also observed that degradation of the spectral response due to characteristic x-rays caused worsening precision in the estimation of tissue density parameters. It was observed that characteristic x-rays do cause some degradation in the spatial and spectral resolution of thin CZT detectors operating under breast CT conditions. These degradations should be manageable with careful selection of the detector element size. Even with the observed spectral distortion from characteristic x-rays, it is still possible to correctly estimate tissue parameters for material decomposition using spectral CT if accurate modeling is used.


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