Impact of time-of-flight PET on quantification errors in MR imaging-based attenuation correction

Abolfazl Mehranian, Habib Zaidi
Journal of Nuclear Medicine 2015, 56 (4): 635-41

UNLABELLED: Time-of-flight (TOF) PET/MR imaging is an emerging imaging technology with great capabilities offered by TOF to improve image quality and lesion detectability. We assessed, for the first time, the impact of TOF image reconstruction on PET quantification errors induced by MR imaging-based attenuation correction (MRAC) using simulation and clinical PET/CT studies.

METHODS: Standard 4-class attenuation maps were derived by segmentation of CT images of 27 patients undergoing PET/CT examinations into background air, lung, soft-tissue, and fat tissue classes, followed by the assignment of predefined attenuation coefficients to each class. For each patient, 4 PET images were reconstructed: non-TOF and TOF both corrected for attenuation using reference CT-based attenuation correction and the resulting 4-class MRAC maps. The relative errors between non-TOF and TOF MRAC reconstructions were compared with their reference CT-based attenuation correction reconstructions. The bias was locally and globally evaluated using volumes of interest (VOIs) defined on lesions and normal tissues and CT-derived tissue classes containing all voxels in a given tissue, respectively. The impact of TOF on reducing the errors induced by metal-susceptibility and respiratory-phase mismatch artifacts was also evaluated using clinical and simulation studies.

RESULTS: Our results show that TOF PET can remarkably reduce attenuation correction artifacts and quantification errors in the lungs and bone tissues. Using classwise analysis, it was found that the non-TOF MRAC method results in an error of -3.4% ± 11.5% in the lungs and -21.8% ± 2.9% in bones, whereas its TOF counterpart reduced the errors to -2.9% ± 7.1% and -15.3% ± 2.3%, respectively. The VOI-based analysis revealed that the non-TOF and TOF methods resulted in an average overestimation of 7.5% and 3.9% in or near lung lesions (n = 23) and underestimation of less than 5% for soft tissue and in or near bone lesions (n = 91). Simulation results showed that as TOF resolution improves, artifacts and quantification errors are substantially reduced.

CONCLUSION: TOF PET substantially reduces artifacts and improves significantly the quantitative accuracy of standard MRAC methods. Therefore, MRAC should be less of a concern on future TOF PET/MR scanners with improved timing resolution.

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