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Comments on the NEMA NU 4-2008 Standard on Performance Measurement of Small Animal Positron Emission Tomographs

: Hallen, P.; Schug, D.; Schulz, V.

Volltext ()

EJNMMI Physics 7 (2020), Nr.1, Art. 12, 20 S.
ISSN: 2197-7364
Zeitschriftenaufsatz, Elektronische Publikation
Fraunhofer MEVIS ()

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association’s (NEMA) NU 4-2008 standard specifies methodology for evaluating the performance of small-animal PET scanners. The standard’s goal is to enable comparison of different PET scanners over a wide range of technologies and geometries used. In this work, we discuss if the NEMA standard meets these goals and we point out potential flaws and improvements to the standard.For the evaluation of spatial resolution, the NEMA standard mandates the use of filtered backprojection reconstruction. This reconstruction method can introduce star-like artifacts for detectors with an anisotropic spatial resolution, usually caused by parallax error. These artifacts can then cause a strong dependence of the resulting spatial resolution on the size of the projection window in image space, whose size is not fully specified in the NEMA standard. If the PET ring has detectors which are perpendicular to a Cartesian axis, then the resolution along this axis will typically improve with larger projection windows.We show that the standard’s equations for the estimation of the random rate for PET systems with intrinsic radioactivity are circular and not satisfiable. However, a modified version can still be used to determine an approximation of the random rates under the assumption of negligible random rates for small activities and a constant scatter fraction. We compare the resulting estimated random rates to random rates obtained using a delayed coincidence window and two methods based on the singles rates. While these methods give similar estimates, the estimation method based on the NEMA equations overestimates the random rates.In the NEMA standard’s protocol for the evaluation of the sensitivity, the standard specifies to axially step a point source through the scanner and to take a different scan for each source position. Later, in the data analysis section, the standard does not specify clearly how the different scans have to be incorporated into the analysis, which can lead to unclear interpretations of publicized results.The standard’s definition of the recovery coefficients in the image quality phantom includes the maximum activity in a region of interest, which causes a positive correlation of noise and recovery coefficients. This leads to an unintended trade-off between desired uniformity, which is negatively correlated with variance (i.e., noise), and recovery.With this work, we want to start a discussion on possible improvements in a next version of the NEMA NU-4 standard.