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Modeling contrast-to-noise ratio from list mode reconstructions of 68 Ga DOTATATE PET/CT: predicting detectability of hepatic metastases in shorter acquisition PET reconstructions.

BACKGROUND: Deep learning (DL) algorithms have shown promise in identifying and quantifying lesions in PET/CT. However, the accuracy and generalizability of these algorithms relies on large, diverse datasets which are time and labor intensive to curate. Modern PET/CT scanners may acquire data in list mode, allowing for multiple reconstructions of the same datasets with different parameters and imaging times. These reconstructions may provide a wide range of image characteristics to increase the size and diversity of datasets. Training algorithms with shorter imaging times and higher noise properties requires that lesions remain detectable. The purpose of this study is to model and predict the contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) for shorter imaging times based on CNR from longer duration, lower noise images for 68 Ga DOTATATE PET hepatic lesions and identify a threshold above which lesions remain detectable.

METHODS: 68 Ga DOTATATE subjects (n=20) with hepatic lesions were divided into two subgroups. The "Model" group (n=4 subjects; n=9 lesions; n=36 datapoints) was used to identify the relationship between CNR and imaging time. The "Test" group (n=16 subjects; n=44 lesions; n=176 datapoints) was used to evaluate the prediction provided by the model.

RESULTS: CNR plotted as a function of imaging time for a subset of identified subjects was very well fit with a quadratic model. For the remaining subjects, the measured CNR showed a very high linear correlation with the predicted CNR for these lesions (R2 > 0.97) for all imaging durations. From the model, a threshold CNR=6.9 at 5-minutes predicted CNR > 5 at 2-minutes. Visual inspection of lesions in 2-minute images with CNR above the threshold in 5-minute images were assessed and rated as a 4 or 5 (probably positive or definitely positive) confirming 100% lesion detectability on the shorter 2-minute PET images.

CONCLUSIONS: CNR for shorter DOTATATE PET imaging times may be accurately predicted using list mode reconstructions of longer acquisitions. A threshold CNR may be applied to longer duration images to ensure lesion detectability of shorter duration reconstructions. This method can aid in the selection of lesions to include in novel data augmentation techniques for deep learning.

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