Purpose: Low count single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is becoming more important in view of whole body SPECT and reduction of radiation dose. In this study, we investigated the performance of several 3D ordered subset expectation maximization (3DOSEM) and maximum a posteriori (MAP) algorithms for reconstructing low count SPECT images.
Materials and Methods: Phantom experiments were conducted using the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) NU2 image quality (IQ) phantom. The background compartment of the phantom was filled with varying concentrations of pertechnetate and indiumchloride, simulating various clinical imaging conditions. Images were acquired using a hybrid SPECT/CT scanner and reconstructed with 3DOSEM and MAP reconstruction algorithms implemented in Siemens Syngo MI.SPECT (Flash3D) and Hermes Hybrid Recon Oncology (Hyrid Recon 3DOSEM and MAP). Image analysis was performed by calculating the contrast recovery coefficient (CRC),percentage background variability (N%), and contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR), defined as the ratio between CRC and N%. Furthermore, image distortion is characterized by calculating the aspect ratio (AR) of ellipses fitted to the hot spheres. Additionally, the performance of these algorithms to reconstruct clinical images was investigated.
Results: Images reconstructed with 3DOSEM algorithms demonstrated superior image quality in terms of contrast and resolution recovery when compared to images reconstructed with filtered-back-projection (FBP), OSEM and 2DOSEM. However, occurrence of correlated noise patterns and image distortions significantly deteriorated the quality of 3DOSEM reconstructed images. The mean AR for the 37, 28, 22, and 17 mm spheres was 1.3, 1.3, 1.6, and 1.7 respectively. The mean N% increase in high and low count Flash3D and Hybrid Recon 3DOSEM from 5.9% and 4.0% to 11.1% and 9.0%, respectively. Similarly, the mean CNR decreased in high and low count Flash3D and Hybrid Recon 3DOSEM from 8.7 and 8.8 to 3.6 and 4.2, respectively. Regularization with smoothing priors could suppress these noise patterns at the cost of reduced image contrast. The mean N% was 6.4% and 6.8% for low count QSP and MRP MAP reconstructed images. Alternatively, regularization with an anatomical Bowhser prior resulted in sharp images with high contrast, limited image distortion, and low N% of 8.3% in low count images, although some image artifacts did occur. Analysis of clinical images suggested that the same effects occur in clinical imaging.
Conclusion: Image quality of low count SPECT acquisitions reconstructed with modern 3DOSEM algorithms is deteriorated by the occurrence of correlated noise patterns and image distortions. The artifacts observed in the phantom experiments can also occur in clinical imaging.
- Image quality
- Low count image reconstruction