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At the SYRMEP (Synchrotron Radiation for Medical Physics) beamline of Elettra an X-ray room for clinical phase contrast mammography has been set-up. Over 80 patients have undergone synchrotron radiation mammography with the aim of resolving questionable diagnosis after the hospital exam, based on conventional mammography and ultrasound. This is the first and so far the only clinical study of this kind.

Two fundamental aspects of mammography with synchrotron radiation are:

1.    Monochromatic radiation: allows a dose reduction together with a superior image quality compared to conventional mammography at the hospital.

2.    High spatial coherence of the beam: makes the effects of phase contrast visible. These effects enhance the visibility of small and/or low-contrast details.

Breast imaging is strongly moving towards 3D techniques. In clinics, tomosynthesis is emerging as a good compromise taking into account costs, dose limits and the similarity of the images with the conventional planar mammograms. On the contrary, breast tomography is still in the pre-clinical development phase.

The goal of SYRMA-CT is to maintain the Italian leadership in phase contrast mammography extending the clinical program of the SYRMEP beamline to breast tomography. To this end, the excellent expertise gained within the activities of INFN CSN5 flow into the project to enable the achievement of objectives with high probability of success. The project is also based on the essential scientific collaboration with Elettra and with the Azienda Sanitaria Universitaria Integrata di Trieste, which has recently been awarded with the EUSOMA european certification; morevoer the same hospital which hosts the Breast Unit is internationally certified as Academic Medical Centre Hospital.

The results will be a reference for the entire international community that studies X-ray phase contrast imaging for medical applications and will carry weight on investment choices for the development of systems based on compact sources.

The SYRMA-CT project will use the Pixirad-8 detector, a photon counting detector with optimal performances in terms of efficiency and resolution, with sensitive area appropriate to the geometry of the SYRMEP beam.

Experiment Scheme

Partecipant INFN sections: TS, PI, CA, NA, FE, and, for 2014 only, BO.

Collaborators: Elettra, Azienda Sanitaria Universitaria Integrata di Trieste.

General Goal: To maintain the Italian leadership in phase contrast mammography with synchrotron radiation extending the clinical program of the SYRMEP beamline to breast tomography.

  • 2014
    During the first year of the project, a feasibility study for clinical CT has been carried out. In this study, we have used a prototype of the detector Pixirad-8, which allowed the image capture to test the tomographic reconstruction algorithms.
    In parallel to this activity, the groundwork for the implementation of a Monte Carlo code was laid, based on Geant4 toolkit in order to allow the evaluation of the dose delivered to the patient.
  • 2015
    In the second year of the project, additional surgical tissue images were acquired . The reconstructed images were subjected to evaluation by radiologists to determine their quality from the clinical point of view.
    The dosimetry activities were focused on the experimental validation of the Monte Carlo code and on the definition of the quantities useful for estimating the dose in test conditions using synchrotron radiation. This work has earned the open access publication in Physics in Medicine and Biology.
  • 2016
    The delivery of Pixirad-8 detector at the SYRMEP beamline of Elettra has permitted to begin the study of integration of the latter with the acquisition system and with the handling of the patient support.
    In the first half of the year calibration measurements of ionization chambers at the primary standard with ENEA-IMRI were performed.
    The following picture depicts the patient room equipped with the Pixirad-8 detector.


Since 2017, the development of the Breast-CT clinical exam acquisition system at the SYRMEP beamline has continued in the SYRMA-3D experiment.

Last update: 23/11/2018 

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Image in the page header: an artistically enhanced picture of particle tracks in the BEBC, Big European Bubble Chamber (Copyright CERN).