Purpose: The purpose of this work is to study the influence of photon energy cuts on the results of positron emission tomography (PET) Monte Carlo (MC) simulations.
Methods: MC simulations of PET scans of a box phantom and the NEMA image quality phantom are performed for 32 photon energy cut values in the interval 0.3-350 keV using a well-validated numerical model of a PET scanner. The simulations are performed with two MC codes, egs_pet and GEANT4 Application for Tomographic Emission (GATE). The effect of photon energy cuts on the recorded number of singles, primary, scattered, random, and total coincidences as well as on the simulation time and noise-equivalent count rate is evaluated by comparing the results for higher cuts to those for 1 keV cut. To evaluate the effect of cuts on the quality of reconstructed images, MC generated sinograms of PET scans of the NEMA image quality phantom are reconstructed with iterative statistical reconstruction. The effects of photon cuts on the contrast recovery coefficients and on the comparison of images by means of commonly used similarity measures are studied.
Results: For the scanner investigated in this study, which uses bismuth germanate crystals, the transport of Bi X(K) rays must be simulated in order to obtain unbiased estimates for the number of singles, true, scattered, and random coincidences as well as for an unbiased estimate of the noise-equivalent count rate. Photon energy cuts higher than 170 keV lead to absorption of Compton scattered photons and strongly increase the number of recorded coincidences of all types and the noise-equivalent count rate. The effect of photon cuts on the reconstructed images and the similarity measures used for their comparison is statistically significant for very high cuts (e.g., 350 keV). The simulation time decreases slowly with the increase of the photon cut.
Conclusions: The simulation of the transport of characteristic x rays plays an important role, if an accurate modeling of a PET scanner system is to be achieved. The simulation time decreases slowly with the increase of the cut which, combined with the accuracy loss at high cuts, means that the usage of high photon energy cuts is not recommended for the acceleration of MC simulations.