In the context of dynamic emission tomography, the conventional processing pipeline consists of independent image reconstruction of single time frames, followed by the application of a suitable kinetic model to time activity curves (TACs) at the voxel or region-of-interest level. The relatively new field of 4D PET direct reconstruction, by contrast, seeks to move beyond this scheme and incorporate information from multiple time frames within the reconstruction task. Existing 4D direct models are based on a deterministic description of voxels' TACs, captured by the chosen kinetic model, considering the photon counting process the only source of uncertainty. In this work, we introduce a new probabilistic modeling strategy based on the key assumption that activity time course would be subject to uncertainty even if the parameters of the underlying dynamic process were known. This leads to a hierarchical Bayesian model, which we formulate using the formalism of Probabilistic Graphical Modeling (PGM). The inference of the joint probability density function arising from PGM is addressed using a new gradient-based iterative algorithm, which presents several advantages compared to existing direct methods: it is flexible to an arbitrary choice of linear and nonlinear kinetic model; it enables the inclusion of arbitrary (sub)differentiable priors for parametric maps; it is simpler to implement and suitable to integration in computing frameworks for machine learning. Computer simulations and an application to real patient scan showed how the proposed approach allows us to weight the importance of the kinetic model, providing a bridge between indirect and deterministic direct methods.
* 15 pages (main manuscript + supplementary material); submitted for
peer-review to IEEE Transactions of Medical Imaging (IEEE-TMI)
Parametric images provide insight into the spatial distribution of physiological parameters, but they are often extremely noisy, due to low SNR of tomographic data. Direct estimation from projections allows accurate noise modeling, improving the results of post-reconstruction fitting. We propose a method, which we name kinetic compressive sensing (KCS), based on a hierarchical Bayesian model and on a novel reconstruction algorithm, that encodes sparsity of kinetic parameters. Parametric maps are reconstructed by maximizing the joint probability, with an Iterated Conditional Modes (ICM) approach, alternating the optimization of activity time series (OS-MAP-OSL), and kinetic parameters (MAP-LM). We evaluated the proposed algorithm on a simulated dynamic phantom: a bias/variance study confirmed how direct estimates can improve the quality of parametric maps over a post-reconstruction fitting, and showed how the novel sparsity prior can further reduce their variance, without affecting bias. Real FDG PET human brain data (Siemens mMR, 40min) images were also processed. Results enforced how the proposed KCS-regularized direct method can produce spatially coherent images and parametric maps, with lower spatial noise and better tissue contrast. A GPU-based open source implementation of the algorithm is provided.
* 5 pages, 6 figures, Submitted to the Conference Record of "IEEE
Nuclear Science Symposium and Medical Imaging Conference (IEEE NSS-MIC) 2017"