Design of a short nonuniform acquisition protocol for quantitative analysis in dynamic cardiac SPECT imaging — a retrospective 123I-MIBG animal study

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Our previous works have found that quantitative analysis of 123I-MIBG kinetics in the rat heart with dynamic single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) offers the potential to quantify the innervation integrity at an early stage of left ventricular hypertrophy. However, conventional protocols involving a long acquisition time for dynamic imaging reduce the animal survival rate and thus make longitudinal analysis difficult. The goal of this work was to develop a procedure to reduce the total acquisition time by selecting nonuniform acquisition times for projection views while maintaining the accuracy and precision of estimated physiologic parameters.


Taking dynamic cardiac imaging with 123I-MIBG in rats as an example, we generated time activity curves (TACs) of regions of interest (ROIs) as ground truths based on a direct four-dimensional reconstruction of experimental data acquired from a rotating SPECT camera, where TACs represented as the coefficients of B-spline basis functions were used to estimate compartmental model parameters. By iteratively adjusting the knots (i.e., control points) of B-spline basis functions, new TACs were created according to two rules: accuracy and precision. The accuracy criterion allocates the knots to achieve low relative entropy between the estimated left ventricular blood pool TAC and its ground truth so that the estimated input function approximates its real value and thus the procedure yields an accurate estimate of model parameters. The precision criterion, via the D-optimal method, forces the estimated parameters to be as precise as possible, with minimum variances. Based on the final knots obtained, a new protocol of 30 min was built with a shorter acquisition time that maintained a 5% error in estimating rate constants of the compartment model. This was evaluated through digital simulations.


The simulation results showed that our method was able to reduce the acquisition time from 100 to 30 min for the cardiac study of rats with 123I-MIBG. Compared to a uniform interval dynamic SPECT protocol (1 s acquisition interval, 30 min acquisition time), the newly proposed protocol with nonuniform interval achieved comparable (Symbol and Symbol, P = 0.5745 for Symbol and P = 0.0604 for Symbol) or better (Distribution Volume, DV, P = 0.0004) performance for parameter estimates with less storage and shorter computational time.


In this study, a procedure was devised to shorten the acquisition time while maintaining the accuracy and precision of estimated physiologic parameters in dynamic SPECT imaging. The procedure was designed for 123I-MIBG cardiac imaging in rat studies; however, it has the potential to be extended to other applications, including patient studies involving the acquisition of dynamic SPECT data.

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