Journal of Biomedical Optics • Open AccessOverview of diffuse optical tomography and its clinical applications
Near-infrared diffuse optical tomography (DOT), one of the most sophisticated optical imaging techniques for observations through biological tissue, allows 3-D quantitative imaging of optical properties, which include functional and anatomical information. With DOT, it is expected to be possible to overcome the limitations of conventional near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) as well as offering the potential for diagnostic optical imaging. However, DOT has been under development for more than 30 years, and the difficulties in development are attributed to the fact that light is strongly scattered and that diffusive photons are used for the image reconstruction. The DOT algorithm is based on the techniques of inverse problems. The radiative transfer equation accurately describes photon propagation in biological tissue, while, because of its high computation load, the diffusion equation (DE) is often used as the forward model. However, the DE is invalid in low-scattering and/or highly absorbing regions and in the vicinity of light sources. The inverse problem is inherently ill-posed and highly undetermined. Here, we first summarize NIRS and then describe various approaches in the efforts to develop accurate and efficient DOT algorithms and present some examples of clinical applications. Finally, we discuss the future prospects of DOT.