Near-infrared (NIR) optical tomography can provide estimates of the internal distribution of optical absorption and transport scattering from boundary measurements of light propagation within biological tissue. Although this is a truly three-dimensional (3D) imaging problem, most research to date has concentrated on two-dimensional modeling and image reconstruction. More recently, 3D imaging algorithms are demonstrating better estimation of the light propagation within the imaging region and are providing the basis of more accurate image reconstruction algorithms. As 3D methods emerge, it will become increasingly important to evaluate their resolution, contrast, and localization of optical property heterogeneity. We present a concise study of 3D reconstructed resolution of a small, low-contrast, absorbing and scattering anomaly as it is placed in different locations within a cylindrical phantom. The object is an 8-mm-diameter cylinder, which represents a typical small target that needs to be resolved in NIR mammographic imaging. The best resolution and contrast is observed when the object is located near the periphery of the imaging region (12–22 mm from the edge) and is also positioned within the multiple measurement planes, with the most accurate results seen for the scatter image when the anomaly is at 17 mm from the edge. Furthermore, the accuracy of quantitative imaging is increased to almost 100% of the target values when a priori information regarding the internal structure of imaging domain is utilized.
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