Dosage optimization in positron emission tomography: state-of-the-art methods and future prospects.
Positron emission tomography (PET) is widely used nowadays for tumor staging and therapy response in the clinic. However, average PET radiation exposure has increased due to higher PET utilization. This study aims to review state-of-the-art PET tracer dosage optimization methods after accounting for the effects of human body attenuation and scan protocol parameters on the counting rate. In particular, the relationship between the noise equivalent count rate (NECR) and the dosage (NECR-dosage curve) for a range of clinical PET systems and body attenuation sizes will be systematically studied to prospectively estimate the minimum dosage required for sufficiently high NECR. The optimization criterion can be determined either as a function of the peak of the NECR-dosage curve or as a fixed NECR score when NECR uniformity across a patient population is important. In addition, the systematic NECR assessments within a controllable environment of realistic simulations and phantom experiments can lead to a NECR-dosage response model, capable of predicting the optimal dosage for every individual PET scan. Unlike conventional guidelines suggesting considerably large dosage levels for obese patients, NECR-based optimization recommends: i) moderate dosage to achieve 90% of peak NECR for obese patients, ii) considerable dosage reduction for slimmer patients such that uniform NECR is attained across the patient population, and iii) prolongation of scans for PET/MR protocols, where longer PET acquisitions are affordable due to lengthy MR sequences, with motion compensation becoming important then. Finally, the need for continuous adaptation of dosage optimization to emerging technologies will be discussed.