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Gromann, Lukas B., Bequé, Dirk, Scherer, Kai, Willer, Konstantin, Birnbacher, Lorenz, Willner, Marian, Herzen, Julia, Grandl, Susanne, Hellerhoff, Karin, Sperl, Jonathan I., Pfeiffer, Franz and Cozzini, Cristina (2016): Low-dose, phase-contrast mammography with high signal-to-noise ratio. In: Biomedical Optics Express, Vol. 7, No. 2: pp. 381-391

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Differential phase-contrast X-ray imaging using a Talbot-Lau interferometer has recently shown promising results for applications in medical imaging. However, reducing the applied radiation dose remains a major challenge. In this study, we consider the realization of a Talbot-Lau interferometer in a high Talbot order to increase the signal-to-noise ratio for low-dose applications. The quantitative performance of mu and mu/2 systems at high Talbot orders is analyzed through simulations, and the design energy and X-ray spectrum are optimized for mammography. It is found that operation even at very high Talbot orders is feasible and beneficial for image quality. As long as the X-ray spectrum is matched to the visibility spectrum, the SNR continuously increases with the Talbot order for mu-systems. We find that the optimal X-ray spectra and design energies are almost independent of the Talbot order and that the overall imaging performance is robust against small variations in these parameters. Discontinuous spectra, such as that from molybdenum, are less robust because the characteristic lines may coincide with minima in the visibility spectra;however, they may offer slightly better performance. We verify this hypothesis by realizing a prototype system with a mean fringe visibility of above 40% at the seventh Talbot order. With this prototype, a proof-of-principle measurement of a freshly dissected breast at reasonable compression to 4 cm is conducted with a mean glandular dose of only 3 mGy but with a high SNR. (C) 2016 Optical Society of America

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