X-ray-based attenuation correction for positron emission tomography/computed tomography scanners

Semin Nucl Med. 2003 Jul;33(3):166-79. doi: 10.1053/snuc.2003.127307.


A synergy of positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) scanners is the use of the CT data for x-ray-based attenuation correction of the PET emission data. Current methods of measuring transmission use positron sources, gamma-ray sources, or x-ray sources. Each of the types of transmission scans involves different trade-offs of noise versus bias, with positron transmission scans having the highest noise but lowest bias, whereas x-ray scans have negligible noise but the potential for increased quantitative errors. The use of x-ray-based attenuation correction, however, has other advantages, including a lack of bias introduced from post-injection transmission scanning, which is an important practical consideration for clinical scanners, as well as reduced scan times. The sensitivity of x-ray-based attenuation correction to artifacts and quantitative errors depends on the method of translating the CT image from the effective x-ray energy of approximately 70 keV to attenuation coefficients at the PET energy of 511 keV. These translation methods are usually based on segmentation and/or scaling techniques. Errors in the PET emission image arise from positional mismatches caused by patient motion or respiration differences between the PET and CT scans; incorrect calculation of attenuation coefficients for CT contrast agents or metallic implants; or keeping the patient's arms in the field of view, which leads to truncation and/or beam-hardening (or x-ray scatter) artifacts. Proper interpretation of PET emission images corrected for attenuation by using the CT image relies on an understanding of the potential artifacts. In cases where an artifact or bias is suspected, careful inspection of all three available images (CT and PET emission with and without attenuation correction) is recommended.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anatomy, Cross-Sectional / methods*
  • Artifacts
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Scattering, Radiation
  • Subtraction Technique*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / methods*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • X-Rays