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BD-14: Interferometric X-ray imaging

Evaluate the phase contrast method in terms of the diagnostic benefit

Project objective

The "Interferometric X-ray imaging" project within the Medical Valley Cluster of Excellence has a two-pronged objective. The first objective is to evaluate the phase contrast method in terms of the diagnostic benefit by comparing the new image data, in particular data obtained through dark-field imaging, with established techniques. Medically relevant application fields in this context include imaging of the lungs, orthopedics, degenerative diseases, and in particular breast imaging.

The second objective of the project is to improve the current laboratory setup such that, following completion of the project, it will be possible to develop prototypes which meet the requirements of the daily clinical workflow. This further technological development will build on the results of a previous funded project (PHACT).

The research project is a collaboration between Erlangen University (research group led by Prof. Anton), Erlangen University Hospital (Radiology Dept., Women's Clinic, Pathology Dept.), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and Siemens Healthcare.

Brief project description

Interferometric X-ray imaging is a variant of phase contrast X-ray imaging. Using an interferometer consisting of three gratings, an X-ray tube and an X-ray detector, interferometric X-ray imaging allows two further measurement parameters to be visualized in an image each, in addition to the conventional X-ray absorption image.

Based on international research results, there are great, increasingly recognized (Leibnitz award 2011) hopes that more diagnostically relevant information will be obtained through this technique.  This would allow to greatly increase the sensitivity and specificity of exams at comparable X-ray dose levels. Alternatively, it would allow to reduce the X-ray dose without compromising diagnostic quality.

To explore the potential of this new method, a test bed was set up within the BMBF-funded "PHACT" project and promising results were produced. The three-year PHACT project, which ended in March 2012, was a collaboration between the research group led by Prof. Anton (Erlangen University, ECAP), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Microworks, and Siemens Healthcare & Siemens Corporate Technology.

The measurements carried out by Prof. Anton's research group show that the two additional measurement parameters, which are visualized in a phase image and a dark-field image, reveal structures that are not visible, or not visible in this weighting, in the conventional absorption image. The PHACT project mainly focused on examining the phase image. However, initial measurements of a mastectomy (Dec. 2011), which result from a project-related collaboration with Erlangen University Hospital, reveal interesting structures especially in the dark-field image. Figure 1 shows the dark-field image (on the right) and the conventional X-ray image (on the left). The absorption image on the left mainly shows density differences and macrocalcifications, while the dark-field image on the right additionally shows a previously not visible structure within the tumor tissue and its star-shaped processes. Pathological processing of the tissue revealed this to be microcalcifications (10-60 µm), which were not visible in the absorption image. This result provides the opportunity and hope, inter alia, of being able to further increase the sensitivity of X-ray examinations (e.g. mammography) so that diseases such as breast cancer can be detected at an earlier stage, which would facilitate treatment.

Project Duration

01.01.2013 - 30.04.2015

Project Partners

  • Siemens Aktiengesellschaft Healthcare
  • Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU)
  • University Hospital Erlangen
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology


Dr. Marcus Radicke
Siemens AG

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