Factors affecting the stability and repeatability of gamma camera calibration for quantitative imaging applications based on a retrospective review of clinical data

EJNMMI Res. 2014 Dec;4(1):67. doi: 10.1186/s13550-014-0067-x. Epub 2014 Dec 16.


Background: Absolute quantitative single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) has several important applications including monitoring tumor response after treatment and dose estimation for targeted radionuclide therapy treatment planning. Obtaining quantitative SPECT images in absolute activity units requires the use of a calibration factor, and the repeatability of this directly affects the repeatability of image quantification. This study focused on evaluating the factors affecting the repeatability of a calibration factor measured using a planar image of an in-air calibration source.

Methods: The calibration factors calculated as part of (131)I-tositumomab patient dosimetry scans used in treatment planning performed over a 4-year period were retrospectively analyzed. Raw data included total counts in whole-body images of a radioactive calibration source, the activity of the source measured in a radionuclide activity meter (often referred to as a dose calibrator), and the background count rate obtained at three time points for each patient. The count rate from extrinsic flood source acquisitions and radionuclide activity meter constancy obtained on the same day as each image were also used. The data were analyzed statistically using a mixed-effects model to determine the factors affecting variations in the measured calibration factors.

Results: The global variability in the calibration factor was equal to 2.3% and was decreased by 20% to 1.8%, when the decay-corrected measurements of calibration source activity were averaged over the three time points for each patient. Camera sensitivity variation measured using a (57)Co sheet source was small and had a weak relationship to calibration factor variations. When the averaged source activity was used, the main source of variance was related to preparation and measurement of the source (77%). Radionuclide activity meter constancy had a smaller but statistically significant impact on the calibration factor.

Conclusions: This study indicates that calibration factors based on planar measurements have good reproducibility. The findings of this study indicate (1) the importance of accurate and precise preparation and measurement of the calibration source activity, (2) the need to carefully control background activity during calibration factor assessment and patient data acquisition, and (3) that the calibration factor and camera sensitivity were stable over time, indicating that careful but less frequent calibration is needed.