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Technical Note: Performance Evaluation of a Small‐Animal PET / CT System Based on NEMA NU 4‐2008 Standards

Qiong Liu, Chaofan Li, Jiguo Liu, Kishore Krish, Xinlei Fu, Jie Zhao,
Published: 12 July 2021

Abstract: Purpose The MetisTM PET/CT is a self-developed, silicon photomultiplier (SiPM) detector-based, rodent PET/CT system. The objective of this study was to evaluate the performance of the system using the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) NU 4–2008 standard protocol. Methods Energy resolution, spatial resolution, sensitivity, scatter fraction (SF), noise-equivalent count rate (NECR), and image quality (IQ) characteristics were measured. A micro Derenzo phantom experiment was performed to evaluate the spatial resolution using three-dimensional ordered-subsets expectation maximization (3D-OSEM) and maximum likelihood expectation maximization (MLEM) reconstructed images. In addition, the CT imaging agent Ioverol 350 was mixed with fluorine-18 (18F)-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) and then injected into the micro Derenzo phantom to evaluate the PET/CT imaging. In vivo PET/CT imaging studies were also conducted in a healthy mouse and rat using 18F-FDG. Results The mean energy resolution of the system was 15.3%. The tangential resolution was 0.82 mm full-width half-maximum (FWHM) at the center of the field of the view (FOV), and the radial and axial resolution were generally lower than 2.0 mm FWHM. The spatial resolution was significantly improved when using 3D-OSEM, especially the axial FWHM could be improved by up to about 57%. The system absolute sensitivity was 7.7% and 6.8% for an energy window of 200–750 and 350–750 keV respectively. The scatter fraction was 8.2% and 12.1% for the mouse- and rat-like phantom respectively. The peak NECR was 1343.72 kcps at 69 MBq and 640.32 kcps at 53 MBq for the mouse- and rat-like phantom respectively. The 1-mm fillable rod in the IQ phantom can be clearly observed. We can identify the 0.6-mm aperture of the micro Derenzo phantom image clearly using 3D-OSEM (10 subsets, 5 iterations). We also performed the fusion of the PET and CT images of the mouse and the brain imaging of the rat. Conclusions The results show that the system has the characteristics of high-resolution, high-sensitivity, and excellent IQ and is suitable for rodent imaging-based research.
Keywords: image quality / micro PET/CT / NEMA standard / performance evaluation

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