Objectives: Dead-time (DT) effects rarely cause problems in diagnostic single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) studies; however, in post-radionuclide-therapy imaging, DT can be substantial. Therefore, corrections may be necessary if quantitative images are used in image-based dosimetry or for evaluation of therapy outcomes. This task is particularly challenging if low-energy collimators are used. Our goal was to design a simple method to determine the dead-time correction factor (DTCF) without the need for phantom experiments and complex calculations.
Methods: Planar and SPECT/CT scans of a water phantom containing a 70 ml bottle filled with lutetium-177 (Lu) were acquired over 60 days. Two small Lu markers were used in all scans. The DTCF based on the ratio of observed to true count rates measured over the entire spectrum and using photopeak primary photons only was estimated for phantom (DT present) and marker (no DT) scans. In addition, variations in counts in SPECT projections (potentially caused by varying bremsstrahlung and scatter) were investigated.
Results: For count rates that were about two-fold higher than typically seen in post-therapy Lu scans, the maximum DTCF reached a level of about 17%. The DTCF values determined directly from the phantom experiments using the total energy spectrum and photopeak counts only were equal to 13 and 16%, respectively. They were closely matched by those from the proposed marker-based method, which uses only two energy windows and measures photopeak primary photons (15-17%).
Conclusion: A simple, marker-based method allowing for determination of the DTCF in high-activity Lu imaging studies has been proposed and validated using phantom experiments.