Implementation of absolute quantification in small-animal SPECT imaging: Phantom and animal studies

J Appl Clin Med Phys. 2017 Jul;18(4):215-223. doi: 10.1002/acm2.12094. Epub 2017 May 16.


Purpose: Presence of photon attenuation severely challenges quantitative accuracy in single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging. Subsequently, various attenuation correction methods have been developed to compensate for this degradation. The present study aims to implement an attenuation correction method and then to evaluate quantification accuracy of attenuation correction in small-animal SPECT imaging.

Methods: Images were reconstructed using an iterative reconstruction method based on the maximum-likelihood expectation maximization (MLEM) algorithm including resolution recovery. This was implemented in our designed dedicated small-animal SPECT (HiReSPECT) system. For accurate quantification, the voxel values were converted to activity concentration via a calculated calibration factor. An attenuation correction algorithm was developed based on the first-order Chang's method. Both phantom study and experimental measurements with four rats were used in order to validate the proposed method.

Results: The phantom experiments showed that the error of -15.5% in the estimation of activity concentration in a uniform region was reduced to +5.1% when attenuation correction was applied. For in vivo studies, the average quantitative error of -22.8 ± 6.3% (ranging from -31.2% to -14.8%) in the uncorrected images was reduced to +3.5 ± 6.7% (ranging from -6.7 to +9.8%) after applying attenuation correction.

Conclusion: The results indicate that the proposed attenuation correction algorithm based on the first-order Chang's method, as implemented in our dedicated small-animal SPECT system, significantly improves accuracy of the quantitative analysis as well as the absolute quantification.

Keywords: SPECT imaging; attenuation correction; quantification; small-animal imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Animals
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Phantoms, Imaging*
  • Photons
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Rats
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon / methods*