Physical and psychophysical characterization of a novel clinical system for digital mammography

Stefano Rivetti, Nico Lanconelli, Marco Bertolini, Giovanni Borasi, Paola Golinelli, Domenico Acchiappati, Ennio Gallo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: In recent years, many approaches have been investigated on the development of full-field digital mammography detectors and implemented in practical clinical systems. Some of the most promising techniques are based on flat panel detectors, which, depending on the mechanism involved in the x-ray detection, can be grouped into direct and indirect flat panels. Direct detectors display a better spatial resolution due to the direct conversion of x rays into electron-hole pairs, which do not need an intermediate production of visible light. In these detectors the readout is usually achieved through arrays of thin film transistors (TFTs). However, TFT readout tends to display noise characteristics worse than those from indirect detectors. To address this problem, a novel clinical system for digital mammography has been recently marketed based on direct-conversion detector and optical readout. This unit, named AMULET and manufactured by FUJIFILM, is based on a dual layer of amorphous selenium that acts both as a converter of x rays (first layer) and as an optical switch for the readout of signals (second layer) powered by a line light source. The optical readout is expected to improve the noise characteristics of the detector. The aim is to obtain images with high resolution and low noise, thanks to the combination of optical switching technology and direct conversion with amorphous selenium. In this article, the authors present a characterization of an AMULET system. Methods: The characterization was achieved in terms of physical figures as modulation transfer function (MTF), noise power spectra (NPS), detective quantum efficiency (DQE), and contrast-detail analysis. The clinical unit was tested by exposing it to two different beams: 28 kV Mo/Mo (namely, RQA-M2) and 28 kV W/Rh (namely, W/Rh). Results: MTF values of the system are slightly worse than those recorded from other direct-conversion flat panels but still within the range of those from indirect flat panels: The MTF values of the AMULET system are about 45% and 15% at 5 and 8 lp/mm, respectively. On the other hand, however, AMULET NNPS results are consistently better than those from direct-conversion flat panels (up to two to three times lower) and flat panels based on scintillation phosphors. DQE results lie around 70% when RQA-M2 beams are used and approaches 80% in the case of W/Rh beams. Contrast-detail analysis, when performed by human observers on the AMULET system, results in values better than those published for other full-field digital mammography systems. Conclusions: The novel clinical unit based on direct-conversion detector and optical reading presents great results in terms of both physical and psychophysical characterizations. The good spatial resolution, combined with excellent noise properties, allows the achievement of very good DQE, better than those published for clinical FFDM systems. The psychophysical analysis confirms the excellent behavior of the AMULET unit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5139-5148
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Physics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Amorphous selenium
  • Digital mammography
  • Direct-conversion detector
  • Optical readout

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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