Image quantification for radiation dose calculations--limitations and uncertainties

Health Phys. 2010 Nov;99(5):688-701. doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e3181e28cdb.


Radiation dose calculations in nuclear medicine depend on quantification of activity via planar and/or tomographic imaging methods. However, both methods have inherent limitations, and the accuracy of activity estimates varies with object size, background levels, and other variables. The goal of this study was to evaluate the limitations of quantitative imaging with planar and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) approaches, with a focus on activity quantification for use in calculating absorbed dose estimates for normal organs and tumors. To do this we studied a series of phantoms of varying complexity of geometry, with three radionuclides whose decay schemes varied from simple to complex. Four aqueous concentrations of ⁹⁹mTc, ¹³¹I, and ¹¹¹In (74, 185, 370, and 740 kBq mL⁻¹) were placed in spheres of four different sizes in a water-filled phantom, with three different levels of activity in the surrounding water. Planar and SPECT images of the phantoms were obtained on a modern SPECT/computed tomography (CT) system. These radionuclides and concentration/background studies were repeated using a cardiac phantom and a modified torso phantom with liver and "tumor" regions containing the radionuclide concentrations and with the same varying background levels. Planar quantification was performed using the geometric mean approach, with attenuation correction (AC), and with and without scatter corrections (SC and NSC). SPECT images were reconstructed using attenuation maps (AM) for AC; scatter windows were used to perform SC during image reconstruction. For spherical sources with corrected data, good accuracy was observed (generally within ±10% of known values) for the largest sphere (11.5 mL) and for both planar and SPECT methods with ⁹⁹mTc and ¹³¹I, but were poorest and deviated from known values for smaller objects, most notably for ¹¹¹In. SPECT quantification was affected by the partial volume effect in smaller objects and generally showed larger errors than the planar results in these cases for all radionuclides. For the cardiac phantom, results were the most accurate of all of the experiments for all radionuclides. Background subtraction was an important factor influencing these results. The contribution of scattered photons was important in quantification with ¹³¹I; if scatter was not accounted for, activity tended to be overestimated using planar quantification methods. For the torso phantom experiments, results show a clear underestimation of activity when compared to previous experiment with spherical sources for all radionuclides. Despite some variations that were observed as the level of background increased, the SPECT results were more consistent across different activity concentrations. Planar or SPECT quantification on state-of-the-art gamma cameras with appropriate quantitative processing can provide accuracies of better than 10% for large objects and modest target-to-background concentrations; however when smaller objects are used, in the presence of higher background, and for nuclides with more complex decay schemes, SPECT quantification methods generally produce better results.

MeSH terms

  • Calibration
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Radiation Dosage*
  • Radiometry
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Uncertainty*