Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Positron emission tomography (PET) is an important functional in vivo imaging modality with many clinical applications. Its enormously wide range of applications has made both research and industry combine it with other imaging modalities such as X-ray computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The general purpose of this work is to study two cases in PET where the goal is to perform image reconstruction jointly on two data types.
The first case is the Beta-Gamma image reconstruction. Positron emitting isotopes, such as 11C, 13N, and 18F, can be used to label molecules, and tracers, such as 11CO2, are delivered to plants to study their biological processes, particularly metabolism and photosynthesis, which may contribute to the development of plants that have higher yield of crops and biomass. Measurements and resulting images from PET scanners are not quantitative in young plant structures or in plant leaves due to low positron annihilation in thin objects. To address this problem we have designed, assembled, modeled, and tested a nuclear imaging system (Simultaneous Beta-Gamma Imager). The imager can simultaneously detect positrons (β+) and coincidence-gamma rays (γ). The imaging system employs two planar detectors; one is a regular gamma detector which has a LYSO crystal array, and the other is a phoswich detector which has an additional BC-404 plastic scintillator for beta detection. A forward model for positrons is proposed along with a joint image reconstruction formulation to utilize the beta and coincidence-gamma measurements for estimating radioactivity distribution in plant leaves. The joint reconstruction algorithm first reconstructs the beta and gamma images independently to estimate the thickness component of the beta forward model, and then jointly estimates the radioactivity distribution in the object. We have validated the physics model and the reconstruction framework through a phantom imaging study and imaging a tomato leaf that has absorbed 11CO2. The results demonstrate that the simultaneously acquired beta and coincidence-gamma data, combined with our proposed joint reconstruction algorithm, improved the quantitative accuracy of estimating radioactivity distribution in thin objects such as leaves. We used the Structural Similarity (SSIM) index for comparing the leaf images from the Simultaneous Beta-Gamma Imager with the ground truth image. The jointly reconstructed images yield SSIM indices of 0.69 and 0.63, whereas the separately reconstructed beta alone and gamma alone images had indices of 0.33 and 0.52, respectively.
The second case is the virtual-pinhole PET technology, which has shown that higher resolution and contrast recovery can be gained by adding a high resolution PET insert with smaller crystals to a conventional PET scanner. Such enhancements are obtained when the insert is placed in proximity of the region of interest (ROI) and in coincidence with the conventional PET scanner. Intuitively, the insert may be positioned within the scanner's axial field-of-view (FOV) and radially closer to the ROI than the scanner's ring. One of the complicating factors of this design is the insert's blocking the scanner's lines-of-response (LORs). Such data may be compensated through attenuation and scatter correction in image reconstruction. However, a potential solution is to place the insert outside of the scanner's axial FOV and to move the body to be in proximity of the insert. We call this imaging strategy the surveillance mode. As the main focus of this work, we have developed an image reconstruction framework for the surveillance mode imaging. The preliminary results show improvement in spatial resolution and contrast recovery. Any improvement in contrast recovery should result in enhancement in tumor detectability, which will be of high clinical significance.
Joseph Yuan-Chuan A. O'Sullivan Tai
Mark A. Anastasio, Ulugbek Kamilov, Richard Laforest,