Evaluation of image registration in PET/CT of the liver and recommendations for optimized imaging

W. Vogel, J. van Dalen, B. Wiering, H. Huisman, F. Corstens, T. Ruers and W. Oyen

Journal of Nuclear Medicine 2007;48(6):910-919.

DOI PMID Download Cited by ~45

Multimodality PET/CT of the liver can be performed with an integrated (hybrid) PET/CT scanner or with software fusion of dedicated PET and CT. Accurate anatomic correlation and good image quality of both modalities are important prerequisites, regardless of the applied method. Registration accuracy is influenced by breathing motion differences on PET and CT, which may also have impact on (attenuation correction-related) artifacts, especially in the upper abdomen. The impact of these issues was evaluated for both hybrid PET/CT and software fusion, focused on imaging of the liver. METHODS: Thirty patients underwent hybrid PET/CT, 20 with CT during expiration breath-hold (EB) and 10 with CT during free breathing (FB). Ten additional patients underwent software fusion of dedicated PET and dedicated expiration breath-hold CT (SF). The image registration accuracy was evaluated at the location of liver borders on CT and uncorrected PET images and at the location of liver lesions. Attenuation-correction artifacts were evaluated by comparison of liver borders on uncorrected and attenuation-corrected PET images. CT images were evaluated for the presence of breathing artifacts. RESULTS: In EB, 40\% of patients had an absolute registration error of the diaphragm in the craniocaudal direction of >1 cm (range, -16 to 44 mm), and 45\% of lesions were mispositioned >1 cm. In 50\% of cases, attenuation-correction artifacts caused a deformation of the liver dome on PET of >1 cm. Poor compliance to breath-hold instructions caused CT artifacts in 55\% of cases. In FB, 30\% had registration errors of >1 cm (range, -4 to 16 mm) and PET artifacts were less extensive, but all CT images had breathing artifacts. As SF allows independent alignment of PET and CT, no registration errors or artifacts of >1 cm of the diaphragm occurred. CONCLUSION: Hybrid PET/CT of the liver may have significant registration errors and artifacts related to breathing motion. The extent of these issues depends on the selected breathing protocol and the speed of the CT scanner. No protocol or scanner can guarantee perfect image fusion. On the basis of these findings, recommendations were formulated with regard to scanner requirements, breathing protocols, and reporting.