Abstract

Diffusing photons provide information about the optical properties of turbid media. In biological tissues these optical properties may be correlated to physiological parameters, enabling one to probe effectively the physiological states of tissue for abnormalities such as tumors and hemorrhages. We show that positional uncertainty in the source and detector lead to significant random errors that degrade the optical information available from diffusing photons. We investigate the limits for the detection, localization, and characterization of optical inhomogeneities by using diffusing photons as a probe. Although detection is sufficient for tumor screening, full characterization of the optical properties is desirable for specification of the tumor. Our findings in model breast systems with realistic signal-to-noise ratios indicate that tumors as small as 0.3 cm in diameter can be unambiguously detected; however, simultaneous determination of tumor size and optical properties is possible only if its diameter is of the order of 1.0 cm or larger. On the other hand, if a priori information about the size (optical properties) is available, then the optical properties (size) of tumors as small as 0.3 cm in diameter can be determined.

© 1997 Optical Society of America

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