Physics in medicine and biology

Comparison of the x-ray attenuation properties of breast calcifications, aluminium, hydroxyapatite and calcium oxalate.

PMID 23470559


Aluminium is often used as a substitute material for calcifications in phantom measurements in mammography. Additionally, calcium oxalate, hydroxyapatite and aluminium are used in simulation studies. This assumes that these materials have similar attenuation properties to calcification, and this assumption is examined in this work. Sliced mastectomy samples containing calcification were imaged at ×5 magnification using a digital specimen cabinet. Images of the individual calcifications were extracted, and the diameter and contrast of each calculated. The thicknesses of aluminium required to achieve the same contrast as each calcification when imaged under the same conditions were calculated using measurements of the contrast of aluminium foils. As hydroxyapatite and calcium oxalate are also used to simulate calcifications, the equivalent aluminium thicknesses of these materials were also calculated using tabulated attenuation coefficients. On average the equivalent aluminium thickness was 0.85 times the calcification diameter. For calcium oxalate and hydroxyapatite, the equivalent aluminium thicknesses were 1.01 and 2.19 times the thickness of these materials respectively. Aluminium and calcium oxalate are suitable substitute materials for calcifications. Hydroxyapatite is much more attenuating than the calcifications and aluminium. Using solid hydroxyapatite as a substitute for calcification of the same size would lead to excessive contrast in the mammographic image.

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Calcium oxalate monohydrate, European Pharmacopoeia (EP) Reference Standard
C2CaO4 · H2O