Anthropomorphic breast phantoms are important tools for a wide range of tasks including pre-clinical validation of novel imaging techniques. In order to improve the realism in the phantoms, assessment of simulated anatomical structures is crucial. Thickness of simulated Cooper’s ligaments influences the percentage of dense tissue, as well as qualitative and quantitative properties of simulated images.
We introduce three methods (2-dimensional watershed, 3-dimensional watershed, and facet counting) to assess the thickness of the simulated Cooper’s ligaments in the breast phantoms. For the validation of simulated phantoms, the thickness of ligaments has been measured and compared with the input thickness values. These included a total of 64 phantoms with nominal ligament thicknesses of 200, 400, 600, and 800 μm.
The 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional watershed transformations were performed to obtain the median skeleton of the ligaments. In the 2-dimensional watershed, the median skeleton was found cross-section by cross-section, while the skeleton was found for the entire 3-dimensional space in the 3-dimensional watershed. The thickness was calculated by taking the ratio of the total volume of ligaments and the volume of median skeleton. In the facet counting method, the ligament thickness was estimated as a ratio between estimated ligaments’ volume and average ligaments’ surface area.
We demonstrated that the 2-dimensional watershed technique overestimates the ligament thickness. Good agreement was found between the facet counting technique and the 3-dimensional watershed for assessing thickness. The proposed techniques are applicable for ligaments’ thickness estimation on clinical breast images, provided segmentation of Cooper’s ligaments has been performed.