Integrated PET/MR breast cancer imaging: Attenuation correction and implementation of a 16-channel RF coil

Authors


Abstract

Purpose:

This study aims to develop, implement, and evaluate a 16-channel radiofrequency (RF) coil for integrated positron emission tomography/magnetic resonance (PET/MR) imaging of breast cancer. The RF coil is designed for optimized MR imaging performance and PET transparency and attenuation correction (AC) is applied for accurate PET quantification.

Methods:

A 16-channel breast array RF coil was designed for integrated PET/MR hybrid imaging of breast cancer lesions. The RF coil features a lightweight rigid design and is positioned with a spacer at a defined position on the patient table of an integrated PET/MR system. Attenuation correction is performed by generating and applying a dedicated 3D CT-based template attenuation map. Reposition accuracy of the RF coil on the system patient table while using the positioning frame was tested in repeated measurements using MR-visible markers. The MR, PET, and PET/MR imaging performances were systematically evaluated using modular breast phantoms. Attenuation correction of the RF coil was evaluated with difference measurements of the active breast phantoms filled with radiotracer in the PET detector with and without the RF coil in place, serving as a standard of reference measurement. The overall PET/MR imaging performance and PET quantification accuracy of the new 16-channel RF coil and its AC were then evaluated in first clinical examinations on ten patients with local breast cancer.

Results:

The RF breast array coil provides excellent signal-to-noise ratio and signal homogeneity across the volume of the breast phantoms in MR imaging and visualizes small structures in the phantoms down to 0.4 mm in plane. Difference measurements with PET revealed a global loss and thus attenuation of counts by 13% (mean value across the whole phantom volume) when the RF coil is placed in the PET detector. Local attenuation ranging from 0% in the middle of the phantoms up to 24% was detected in the peripheral regions of the phantoms at positions closer to attenuating hardware structures of the RF coil. The position accuracy of the RF coil on the patient table when using the positioning frame was determined well below 1 mm for all three spatial dimensions. This ensures perfect position match between the RF coil and its three-dimensional attenuation template during the PET data reconstruction process. When applying the CT-based AC of the RF coil, the global attenuation bias was mostly compensated to ±0.5% across the entire breast imaging volume. The patient study revealed high quality MR, PET, and combined PET/MR imaging of breast cancer. Quantitative activity measurements in all 11 breast cancer lesions of the ten patients resulted in increased mean difference values of SUVmax 11.8% (minimum 3.2%; maximum 23.2%) between nonAC images and images when AC of the RF breast coil was applied. This supports the quantitative results of the phantom study as well as successful attenuation correction of the RF coil.

Conclusions:

A 16-channel breast RF coil was designed for optimized MR imaging performance and PET transparency and was successfully integrated with its dedicated attenuation correction template into a whole-body PET/MR system. Systematic PET/MR imaging evaluation with phantoms and an initial study on patients with breast cancer provided excellent MR and PET image quality and accurate PET quantification.

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