Purpose: We compared the performance of three commercial small-animal μSPECT scanners equipped with multipinhole general purpose (GP) and multipinhole high-resolution (HR) collimators designed for imaging mice.
Methods: Spatial resolution, image uniformity, point source sensitivity and contrast recovery were determined for the U-SPECT-II (MILabs), the NanoSPECT-NSO (BioScan) and the X-SPECT (GE) scanners. The pinhole diameters of the HR collimator were 0.35 mm, 0.6 mm and 0.5 mm for these three systems respectively. A pinhole diameter of 1 mm was used for the GP collimator. To cover a broad field of imaging applications three isotopes were used with various photon energies: (99m)Tc (140 keV), (111)In (171 and 245 keV) and (125)I (27 keV). Spatial resolution and reconstructed image uniformity were evaluated in both HR and a GP mode with hot rod phantoms, line sources and a uniform phantom. Point source sensitivity and contrast recovery measures were additionally obtained in the GP mode with a novel contrast recovery phantom developed in-house containing hot and cold submillimetre capillaries on a warm background.
Results: In hot rod phantom images, capillaries as small as 0.4 mm with the U-SPECT-II, 0.75 mm with the X-SPECT and 0.6 mm with the NanoSPECT-NSO could be resolved with the HR collimators for (99m)Tc. The NanoSPECT-NSO achieved this resolution in a smaller field-of-view (FOV) and line source measurements showed that this device had a lower axial than transaxial resolution. For all systems, the degradation in image resolution was only minor when acquiring the more challenging isotopes (111)In and (125)I. The point source sensitivity with (99m)Tc and GP collimators was 3,984 cps/MBq for the U-SPECT-II, 620 cps/MBq for the X-SPECT and 751 cps/MBq for the NanoSPECT-NSO. The effects of volume sensitivity over a larger object were evaluated by measuring the contrast recovery phantom in a realistic FOV and acquisition time. For 1.5-mm rods at a noise level of 8 %, the contrast recovery coefficient (CRC) was 42 %, 37 % and 34 % for the U-SPECT-II, X-SPECT and NanoSPECT-NSO, respectively. At maximal noise levels of 10 %, a CRCcold of 70 %, 52 % and 42 % were obtained for the U-SPECT-II, X-SPECT and NanoSPECT-NSO, respectively. When acquiring (99m)Tc with the GP collimators, the integral/differential uniformity values were 30 %/14 % for the U-SPECT-II, 50 %/30 % for the X-SPECT and 38 %/25 % for the NanoSPECT-NSO. When using the HR collimators, these uniformity values remained similar for U-SPECT-II and X-SPECT, but not for the NanoSPECT-NSO for which the uniformity deteriorated with larger volumes.
Conclusion: We compared three μSPECT systems by acquiring and analysing mouse-sized phantoms including a contrast recovery phantom built in-house offering the ability to measure the hot contrast on a warm background in the submillimetre resolution range. We believe our evaluation addressed the differences in imaging potential for each system to realistically image tracer distributions in mouse-sized objects.