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The Difference Between Digital Mammography and Tomosynthesis

Posted by Vikki Harmonay on Tue, Feb 18, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

When it comes to breast health, everyone understands the importance of mammograms.  But as technology changes, it’s also important to understand the various technologies available for mammography. 

3d_blogmamoSimply put, a mammogram is an x-ray exam of the breast that uses a Mammography machine designed specifically to examine and produce a digital picture or x-ray film of the breast tissue. However, unlike other x-rays, a mammogram uses a lower dose of radiation.   A standard mammography machine has two plates of glass that compress the breast to spread the tissue apart for an accurate image. However, this compression causes overlapping in the breast tissue, which can sometimes obscure imaging. As a result, woman with dense breasts often require additional mammographic spot views.

Digital Breast Tomosynthesis is another kind of mammogram that takes three-dimensional images of the breast. This geometric or linear technology has been in use since the 1930’s, but has only recently been applied to mammography.  As it is considered relatively new, it is not currently available at a large number of hospitals.   This 3D technology was developed to improve the accuracy of mammography and clarify areas of the overlapping tissue.  Using tomosynthesis, the breast is compressed in same way as a mammogram, but the x-ray tube moves in a circular arc around the breast.  Only minimal pressure is needed to hold breast in place.  The 3D image of breast tissue is in one millimeter slices, which provides greater visibility for the radiologists to see tissue details.  A tomosynthesis-equipped machine can perform 2D digital mammography, 3D Digital and a combination of both 2D and 3D during a single compression.

The use of the mammography plus breast tomosynthesis will have a large impact on decreasing the number of women who undergo unnecessary recalls or biopsies.  It will only modestly increase the number of cancers detected.  In all likelihood, it will probably replace conventional mammography as tomosynthesis becomes less expensive.

Currently, there are a few mammography machines on the market that can perform tomosynthesis.  However, only one has been approved for use in the United States thus far.  (Selenia Dimensions 3D System).

The Selenia Dimensions 3D System manufactured by Hologic

  • It’s the only one that’s FDA approved.
  • This is the first commercially available tool to deliver on the extraordinary promise of breast tomosynthesis.
  • It takes 15 consecutive images from different angles across the arc of the breast to produce 3D slice image.
  • It provides exceptionally sharp images for visualization of the finest details.
  • You get one-touch control for seamless, instantaneous transition between three imaging modes: full-field digital mammography (2D imaging), tomosynthesis (3D imaging), and combo-mode imaging (2D+3D imaging--this unique feature quickly acquires a traditional digital mammogram and a tomosynthesis scan in the same compression.)
  • It’s equipped with advanced user tools to simplify operation and enable higher patient throughput.
  • Sophisticated, ergonomic features have been specifically developed to assure the well-being of the patient.

The Mammomat by Siemens

This system is not currently available in the United States, but it has some impressive features.

  • PRIME Technology, personalized OpDose®,flexible OpView and additional CARE technologies enable up to 30% less dose and uncompromised image quality.
  • Calming MoodLight and individualized OpComp create greater comfort and relaxed patients.
  • Features are easy-to-use and quick, including Single-Touch Positioning and one-click-to-image.
  • It offers true 3D Breast Tomosynthesis with a unique 50° angle and HD Volume Reconstruction.
  • It has seamless Stereotactic Biopsy, and a client-server based reading workstation syngo.
GE Healthcare Senographe* Essential

This system is also not approved for use in the U.S. yet.  GE’s SenoClaire* breast tomosynthesis is a three-dimensional imaging technology that uses a low-dose short X-ray sweep around the compressed breast with only nine exposures.

  • It’s powered by ASiRDBT*
  • It provides superior sensitivity for architectural distortions and masses,.
  • Users have clinical confidence, since it delivers the same amount of dose as a digital mammography acquisition of the same view.

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About the author: Vikki Harmonay



Topics: Buying Imaging Equipment, Mammography, Medical Imaging Comparisons