Patient motion is a common problem during dynamic positron emission tomography (PET) scans for quantification of myocardial blood flow (MBF). The purpose of this study was to quantify the prevalence of body motion in a clinical setting and evaluate with realistic phantoms the effects of motion on blood flow quantification, including CT attenuation correction (CTAC) artifacts that result from PET–CT misalignment.
A cohort of 236 sequential patients was analyzed for patient motion under resting and peak stress conditions by two independent observers. The presence of motion, affected time-frames, and direction of motion was recorded; discrepancy between observers was resolved by consensus review. Based on these results, patient body motion effects on MBF quantification were characterized using the digital NURBS-based cardiac-torso phantom, with characteristic time activity curves (TACs) assigned to the heart wall (myocardium) and blood regions. Simulated projection data were corrected for attenuation and reconstructed using filtered back-projection. All simulations were performed without noise added, and a single CT image was used for attenuation correction and aligned to the early- or late-frame PET images.
In the patient cohort, mild motion of 0.5 ± 0.1 cm occurred in 24% and moderate motion of 1.0 ± 0.3 cm occurred in 38% of patients. Motion in the superior/inferior direction accounted for 45% of all detected motion, with 30% in the superior direction. Anterior/posterior motion was predominant (29%) in the posterior direction. Left/right motion occurred in 24% of cases, with similar proportions in the left and right directions. Computer simulation studies indicated that errors in MBF can approach 500% for scans with severe patient motion (up to 2 cm). The largest errors occurred when the heart wall was shifted left toward the adjacent lung region, resulting in a severe undercorrection for attenuation of the heart wall. Simulations also indicated that the magnitude of MBF errors resulting from motion in the superior/inferior and anterior/posterior directions was similar (up to 250%). Body motion effects were more detrimental for higher resolution PET imaging (2 vs 10 mm full-width at half-maximum), and for motion occurring during the mid-to-late time-frames. Motion correction of the reconstructed dynamic image series resulted in significant reduction in MBF errors, but did not account for the residual PET–CTAC misalignment artifacts. MBF bias was reduced further using global partial-volume correction, and using dynamic alignment of the PET projection data to the CT scan for accurate attenuation correction during image reconstruction.
Patient body motion can produce MBF estimation errors up to 500%. To reduce these errors, new motion correction algorithms must be effective in identifying motion in the left/right direction, and in the mid-to-late time-frames, since these conditions produce the largest errors in MBF, particularly for high resolution PET imaging. Ideally, motion correction should be done before or during image reconstruction to eliminate PET-CTAC misalignment artifacts.