Direct 4-D PET list mode parametric reconstruction with a novel EM algorithm.
The production of images of kinetic parameters is often the ultimate goal of positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. The indirect method of PET parametric imaging, also called the frame-based method (FM), is performed by fitting the time-activity curve (TAC) for each voxel with an appropriate compartment model after image reconstruction. The indirect method is simple and easily implemented, however, it usually leads to some loss of accuracy or precision, due to the use of two separate steps. This paper presents a direct 4-D method for producing 3-D images of kinetic parameters from list mode PET data. In this application, the TAC for each voxel is described by a one-tissue compartment model (1T). Extending previous EM algorithms, a new spatiotemporal complete data space was introduced to optimize the maximum likelihood function. This leads to a straightforward closed-form parametric image update equation. This method was implemented by extending the current list mode platform MOLAR to produce a parametric algorithm PMOLAR-1T. Using an ordered subset approach, qualitative and quantitative evaluations were performed using 2-D (x, t) and 4-D (x, y, z, t) simulated list mode data based on brain receptor tracers and also with a human brain study. Comparisons with the indirect method showed that the proposed direct method can lead to accurate estimation of the parametric image values with reduced variance, especially at low count levels. In the 2-D test, the direct method showed similar bias to the frame-based method but with variance reduction of 23%-60%. In the 4-D test, bias values of both methods were no more than 4% and the direct method had lower variability (coefficient of variation reduction of 0%-64% compared to the frame-based method) at the normal count level. The direct method had a larger reduction in variability (27%-81%) and lower bias (1%-5% for 4-D and 1%-19% for FM) at low count levels. The results in the human brain study are similar with PMOLAR-1T showing lower noise than FM.