The recent developments in light generation and detection techniques have opened new possibilities for optical medical imaging, tomography, and diagnosis at tissue penetration depths of ∼10 cm. However, because light scattering and diffusion in biological tissue are rather strong, the reconstruction of object images from optical projections needs special attention. We describe a simple reconstruction method for diffuse optical imaging, based on a modified backprojection approach for medical tomography. Specifically, we have modified the standard backprojection method commonly used in x-ray tomographic imaging to include the effects of both the diffusion and the scattering of light and the associated nonlinearities in projection image formation. These modifications are based primarily on the deconvolution of the broadened image by a spatially variant point-spread function that is dependent on the scattering of light in tissue. The spatial dependence of the deconvolution and nonlinearity corrections for the curved propagating ray paths in heterogeneous tissue are handled semiempirically by coordinate transformations. We have applied this method to both theoretical and experimental projections taken by parallel- and fan-beam tomography geometries. The experimental objects were biomedical phantoms with multiple objects, including in vitro animal tissue. The overall results presented demonstrate that image-resolution improvements by nearly an order of magnitude can be obtained. We believe that the tomographic method presented here can provide a basis for rapid, real-time medical monitoring by the use of optical projections. It is expected that such optical tomography techniques can be combined with the optical tissue diagnosis methods based on spectroscopic molecular signatures to result in a versatile optical diagnosis and imaging technology.
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