Nuclear medicine physics
Relative role of motion and PSF compensation in whole-body oncologic PET-MR imaging
Respiratory motion and partial-volume effects are the two main sources of image degradation in whole-body PET imaging. Simultaneous PET-MR allows measurement of respiratory motion using MRI while collecting PET events. Improved PET images may be obtained by modeling respiratory motion and point spread function (PSF) within the PET iterative reconstruction process. In this study, the authors assessed the relative impact of PSF modeling and MR-based respiratory motion correction in phantoms and patient studies using a whole-body PET-MR scanner.
An asymmetric exponential PSF model accounting for radially varying and axial detector blurring effects was obtained from point source acquisitions performed in the PET-MR scanner. A dedicated MRI acquisition protocol using single-slice steady state free-precession MR acquisitions interleaved with pencil-beam navigator echoes was developed to track respiratory motion during PET-MR studies. An iterative ordinary Poisson fully 3D OSEM PET reconstruction algorithm modeling all the physical effects of the acquisition (attenuation, scatters, random events, detectors efficiencies, PSF), as well as MR-based nonrigid respiratory deformations of tissues (in both emission and attenuation maps) was developed. Phantom and18F-FDG PET-MR patient studies were performed to evaluate the proposed quantitative PET-MR methods.
The phantom experiment results showed that PSF modeling significantly improved contrast recovery while limiting noise propagation in the reconstruction process. In patients with soft-tissue static lesions, PSF modeling improved lesion contrast by 19.7%–109%, enhancing the detectability and assessment of small tumor foci. In a patient study with small moving hepatic lesions, the proposed reconstruction technique improved lesion contrast by 54.4%–98.1% and reduced apparent lesion size by 21.8%–34.2%. Improvements were particularly important for the smallest lesion undergoing large motion at the lung-liver interface. Heterogeneous tumor structures delineation was substantially improved. Enhancements offered by PSF modeling were more important when correcting for motion at the same time.
The results suggest that the proposed quantitative PET-MR methods can significantly enhance the performance of tumor diagnosis and staging as compared to conventional methods. This approach may enable utilization of the full potential of the scanner in oncologic studies of both the lower abdomen, with moving lesions, as well as other parts of the body unaffected by motion.