The scanning-beam digital x-ray (SBDX) system is an inverse geometry x-ray fluoroscopy technology that performs real-time tomosynthesis at planes perpendicular to the source-detector axis. The live display is a composite image which portrays sharp features (e.g. coronary arteries) extracted from a 16 cm thick reconstruction volume. We present a method for automatically determining the position of the cardiac volume prior to acquisition of a coronary angiogram. In the algorithm, a single non-contrast frame is reconstructed over a 44 cm thickness using shift-and-add digital tomosynthesis. Gradient filtering is applied to each plane to emphasize features such as the cardiomediastinal contour, diaphragm, and lung texture, and then sharpness vs. plane position curves are generated. Three sharpness metrics were investigated: average gradient in the bright field, maximum gradient, and the number of normalized gradients exceeding
0.5. A model correlating the peak sharpness in a non-contrast frame and the midplane of the coronary arteries in a contrast-enhanced frame was established using 37 SBDX angiographic loops (64-136 kg human subjects, 0-30° cranial- caudal). The average gradient in the bright field (primarily lung) and the number of normalized gradients >0.5 each yielded peaks correlated to the coronary midplane. The rms deviation between the predicted and true midplane was 1.57 cm. For a 16 cm reconstruction volume and the 5.5-11.5 cm thick cardiac volumes in this study, midplane estimation errors of 2.25-5.25 cm were tolerable. Tomosynthesis-based localization of cardiac volume is feasible. This technique could be applied prior to coronary angiography, or to assist in isocentering the patient for rotational angiography.