Evaluation of Atlas-Based Attenuation Correction for Integrated PET/MR in Human Brain: Application of a Head Atlas and Comparison to True CT-Based Attenuation Correction

Tetsuro Sekine, Alfred Buck, Gaspar Delso, Edwin E G W Ter Voert, Martin Huellner, Patrick Veit-Haibach, Geoffrey Warnock
Journal of Nuclear Medicine 2016, 57 (2): 215-20

UNLABELLED: Attenuation correction (AC) for integrated PET/MR imaging in the human brain is still an open problem. In this study, we evaluated a simplified atlas-based AC (Atlas-AC) by comparing (18)F-FDG PET data corrected using either Atlas-AC or true CT data (CT-AC).

METHODS: We enrolled 8 patients (median age, 63 y). All patients underwent clinically indicated whole-body (18)F-FDG PET/CT for staging, restaging, or follow-up of malignant disease. All patients volunteered for an additional PET/MR of the head (additional tracer was not injected). For each patient, 2 AC maps were generated: an Atlas-AC map registered to a patient-specific liver accelerated volume acquisition-Flex MR sequence and using a vendor-provided head atlas generated from multiple CT head images and a CT-based AC map. For comparative AC, the CT-AC map generated from PET/CT was superimposed on the Atlas-AC map. PET images were reconstructed from the list-mode raw data from the PET/MR imaging scanner using each AC map. All PET images were normalized to the SPM5 PET template, and (18)F-FDG accumulation was quantified in 67 volumes of interest (VOIs; automated anatomic labeling atlas). Relative difference (%diff) between images based on Atlas-AC and CT-AC was calculated, and averaged difference images were generated. (18)F-FDG uptake in all VOIs was compared using Bland-Altman analysis.

RESULTS: The range of error in all 536 VOIs was -3.0%-7.3%. Whole-brain (18)F-FDG uptake based on Atlas-AC was slightly underestimated (%diff = 2.19% ± 1.40%). The underestimation was most pronounced in the regions below the anterior/posterior commissure line, such as the cerebellum, temporal lobe, and central structures (%diff = 3.69% ± 1.43%, 3.25% ± 1.42%, and 3.05% ± 1.18%), suggesting that Atlas-AC tends to underestimate the attenuation values of the skull base bone.

CONCLUSION: When compared with the gold-standard CT-AC, errors introduced using Atlas-AC did not exceed 8% in any brain region investigated. Underestimation of (18)F-FDG uptake was minor (<4%) but significant in regions near the skull base.

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