Hybrid PET/MR Kernelised Expectation Maximisation Reconstruction for Improved Image-Derived Estimation of the Input Function from the Aorta of Rabbits.
Positron emission tomography (PET) provides simple noninvasive imaging biomarkers for multiple human diseases which can be used to produce quantitative information from single static images or to monitor dynamic processes. Such kinetic studies often require the tracer input function (IF) to be measured but, in contrast to direct blood sampling, the image-derived input function (IDIF) provides a noninvasive alternative technique to estimate the IF. Accurate estimation can, in general, be challenging due to the partial volume effect (PVE), which is particularly important in preclinical work on small animals. The recently proposed hybrid kernelised ordered subsets expectation maximisation (HKEM) method has been shown to improve accuracy and contrast across a range of different datasets and count levels and can be used on PET/MR or PET/CT data. In this work, we apply the method with the purpose of providing accurate estimates of the aorta IDIF for rabbit PET studies. In addition, we proposed a method for the extraction of the aorta region of interest (ROI) using the MR and the HKEM image, to minimise the PVE within the rabbit aortic region-a method which can be directly transferred to the clinical setting. A realistic simulation study was performed with ten independent noise realisations while two, real data, rabbit datasets, acquired with the Biograph Siemens mMR PET/MR scanner, were also considered. For reference and comparison, the data were reconstructed using OSEM, OSEM with Gaussian postfilter and KEM, as well as HKEM. The results across the simulated datasets and different time frames show reduced PVE and accurate IDIF values for the proposed method, with 5% average bias (0.8% minimum and 16% maximum bias). Consistent results were obtained with the real datasets. The results of this study demonstrate that HKEM can be used to accurately estimate the IDIF in preclinical PET/MR studies, such as rabbit mMR data, as well as in clinical human studies. The proposed algorithm is made available as part of an open software library, and it can be used equally successfully on human or animal data acquired from a variety of PET/MR or PET/CT scanners.