Attenuation correction in emission tomography using the emission data—A review



The problem of attenuation correction (AC) for quantitative positron emission tomography (PET) had been considered solved to a large extent after the commercial availability of devices combining PET with computed tomography (CT) in 2001; single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) has seen a similar development. However, stimulated in particular by technical advances toward clinical systems combining PET and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), research interest in alternative approaches for PET AC has grown substantially in the last years. In this comprehensive literature review, the authors first present theoretical results with relevance to simultaneous reconstruction of attenuation and activity. The authors then look back at the early history of this research area especially in PET; since this history is closely interwoven with that of similar approaches in SPECT, these will also be covered. We then review algorithmic advances in PET, including analytic and iterative algorithms. The analytic approaches are either based on the Helgason–Ludwig data consistency conditions of the Radon transform, or generalizations of John's partial differential equation; with respect to iterative methods, we discuss maximum likelihood reconstruction of attenuation and activity (MLAA), the maximum likelihood attenuation correction factors (MLACF) algorithm, and their offspring. The description of methods is followed by a structured account of applications for simultaneous reconstruction techniques: this discussion covers organ-specific applications, applications specific to PET/MRI, applications using supplemental transmission information, and motion-aware applications. After briefly summarizing SPECT applications, we consider recent developments using emission data other than unscattered photons. In summary, developments using time-of-flight (TOF) PET emission data for AC have shown promising advances and open a wide range of applications. These techniques may both remedy deficiencies of purely MRI-based AC approaches in PET/MRI and improve standalone PET imaging.