Average glandular dose in digital mammography and digital breast tomosynthesis: comparison of phantom and patient data

R. W. Bouwman*, R. E. van Engen, K. C. Young, G. J. den Heeten, M. J. M. Broeders, S. Schopphoven, C. R. L. P. N. Jeukens, W. J. H. Veldkamp, D. R. Dance

*Corresponding author for this work

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For the evaluation of the average glandular dose (AGD) in digital mammography (DM) and digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) phantoms simulating standard model breasts are used. These phantoms consist of slabs of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) or a combination of PMMA and polyethylene (PE). In the last decades the automatic exposure control (AEC) increased in complexity and became more sensitive to (local) differences in breast composition. The question is how well the AGD estimated using these simple dosimetry phantoms agrees with the average patient AGD. In this study the AGDs for both dosimetry phantoms and for patients have been evaluated for 5 different x-ray systems in DM and DBT modes. It was found that the ratios between patient and phantom AGD did not differ considerably using both dosimetry phantoms. These ratios averaged over all breast thicknesses were 1.14 and 1.15 for the PMMA and PMMA-PE dosimetry phantoms respectively in DM mode and 1.00 and 1.02 in the DBT mode. These ratios were deemed to be sufficiently close to unity to be suitable for dosimetry evaluation in quality control procedures. However care should be taken when comparing systems for DM and DBT since depending on the AEC operation, ratios for particular breast thicknesses may differ substantially (0.83-1.96). Although the predictions of both phantoms are similar we advise the use of PMMA + PE slabs for both DM and DBT to harmonize dosimetry protocols and avoid any potential issues with the use of spacers with the PMMA phantoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7893-7907
JournalPhysics in Medicine and Biology
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2015


  • digital mammography
  • digital breast tomosynthesis
  • average glandular dose
  • phantoms
  • population dose

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