PET/MR imaging of bone lesions—implications for PET quantification from imperfect attenuation correction

Andrei Samarin, Cyrill Burger, Scott D Wollenweber, David W Crook, Irene A Burger, Daniel T Schmid, Gustav K von Schulthess, Felix P Kuhn
European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging 2012, 39 (7): 1154-60

PURPOSE: Accurate attenuation correction (AC) is essential for quantitative analysis of PET tracer distribution. In MR, the lack of cortical bone signal makes bone segmentation difficult and may require implementation of special sequences. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the need for accurate bone segmentation in MR-based AC for whole-body PET/MR imaging.

METHODS: In 22 patients undergoing sequential PET/CT and 3-T MR imaging, modified CT AC maps were produced by replacing pixels with values of >100 HU, representing mostly bone structures, by pixels with a constant value of 36 HU corresponding to soft tissue, thereby simulating current MR-derived AC maps. A total of 141 FDG-positive osseous lesions and 50 soft-tissue lesions adjacent to bones were evaluated. The mean standardized uptake value (SUVmean) was measured in each lesion in PET images reconstructed once using the standard AC maps and once using the modified AC maps. Subsequently, the errors in lesion tracer uptake for the modified PET images were calculated using the standard PET image as a reference.

RESULTS: Substitution of bone by soft tissue values in AC maps resulted in an underestimation of tracer uptake in osseous and soft tissue lesions adjacent to bones of 11.2 ± 5.4% (range 1.5-30.8%) and 3.2 ± 1.7% (range 0.2-4%), respectively. Analysis of the spine and pelvic osseous lesions revealed a substantial dependence of the error on lesion composition. For predominantly sclerotic spine lesions, the mean underestimation was 15.9 ± 3.4% (range 9.9-23.5%) and for osteolytic spine lesions, 7.2 ± 1.7% (range 4.9-9.3%), respectively.

CONCLUSION: CT data simulating treating bone as soft tissue as is currently done in MR maps for PET AC leads to a substantial underestimation of tracer uptake in bone lesions and depends on lesion composition, the largest error being seen in sclerotic lesions. Therefore, depiction of cortical bone and other calcified areas in MR AC maps is necessary for accurate quantification of tracer uptake values in PET/MR imaging.

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