Phantom and methodology for comparison of small lesion detectability in PET

Med Phys. 2023 May;50(5):2998-3007. doi: 10.1002/mp.16187. Epub 2023 Jan 11.


Purpose: The main goal of this work is to describe a phantom design, data acquisition and data analysis methodology enabling comparison of small lesion detectability between PET imaging systems and reconstruction algorithms. Several methods are currently available to characterize intrinsic and image quality performance, but none focus exclusively on small lesion detectability.

Methods: We previously developed a small-lesion detection phantom and described initial results using a head-size phantom. Unlike most fillable nuclear medicine phantoms, this phantom offers a semi-realistic heterogenous background and wall-less contrast features. In this work, the methodology is extended to include (a) the use of both head- and body-sized phantoms and (b) a multi-scan data collection and analysis method. We present an example use case of the phantom and detection estimation methodology, comparing the small-lesion detection performance across four commercial PET/CT systems.

Results: Repeat acquisitions of the phantom enabled estimation of model observer performance and surrogates of detectability. As anticipated, estimated detectability increased with the square root of system sensitivity and TOF offered marked improvement in detectability, especially for the body sized object. The proposed approach characterizing detectability at different times during the decay of the phantom enabled comparison of small lesion detectability at matched activity concentrations (and scan durations) across different scanners.

Conclusion: The proposed approach offers a reproducible tool for evaluating relative tradeoffs of system performance on small lesion detectability.

Keywords: detection; image quality; positron emission tomography (PET).

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*