Preclinical evaluation of MR attenuation correction versus CT attenuation correction on a sequential whole-body MR/PET scanner

Jason Bini, David Izquierdo-Garcia, Jesus Mateo, Josef Machac, Jagat Narula, Valentin Fuster, Zahi A Fayad
Investigative Radiology 2013, 48 (5): 313-22

OBJECTIVES: The application of attenuation correction for combined magnetic resonance/positron emission tomography (MR/PET) systems is still a major challenge for accurate quantitative PET. Computed tomographic attenuation correction (CTAC) is the current clinical standard for PET/computed tomographic (CT) scans. Magnetic resonance, unlike CT, has no direct information about photon attenuation but, rather, proton densities. On combined MR/PET scanners, MR-based attenuation correction (MRAC) consists of assigning empirical attenuation coefficients to MR signal intensities. The objective of the current study was to evaluate the MRAC implemented on the combined MR/PET scanner versus the CTAC with the same PET data in an animal model.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Acquisition was performed using a clinically approved sequential MR/PET scanner (Philips Ingenuity TF). Computed tomographic and MR/PET images of 20 New Zealand White rabbits were retrospectively analyzed. The animals were positioned on a customized animal bed to avoid movement between the CT and MR/PET scanners. Positron emission tomographic images from both methods (MRAC and CTAC) were generated. Voxel-by-voxel and region-of-interest (ROI) analyses were performed to determine differences in standardized uptake values (SUV). Regions of interest were drawn on the coregistered CT images for the aorta, liver, kidney, spine, and soft tissue (muscle) and superimposed on the PET images.

RESULTS: The voxel-by-voxel comparison of PET showed excellent correlation between MRAC and CTAC SUV values (R = 0.99; P < 0.0001). The mean of the difference of SUVs between all respective MRAC and CTAC voxels was -0.94% (absolute difference [AD] ± SD, -0.06 ± 0.30), confirming slight underestimation of MRAC. The ROI-based comparison similarly showed that MRAC SUV values were underestimated compared with CTAC SUV values. The mean difference between MRAC and CTAC for all ROIs was 10.8% (AD, -0.08 ± 0.06; R = 0.99; P < 0.0001) and -9.7% (AD, -0.15 ± 0.12; R = 0.99; P < 0.0001) for the SUV mean (SUV mean) and the SUV maximum (SUV max), respectively. The highest differences were found in the spine (SUV mean -26.1% [-0.11]) and areas close to large bones such as the back muscles (SUV mean, -16.8% [-0.04]).

CONCLUSIONS: In this study, we have compared MRAC and CTAC methods for PET attenuation correction in an animal model. We have confirmed that the MRAC method implemented on a sequential MR/PET scanner underestimates PET values by less than 10% in most regions, except the areas containing or close to large bone structures such as the spine or the back muscles. Bone segmentation is therefore suggested to be included in the MR attenuation map to minimize the quantification error of MRAC methods compared with the clinical standard CTAC. Further clinical studies need to be carried out to validate the clinical use of MRAC.

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