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To assess the performance of two approaches to the system response matrix (SRM) calculation in pinhole single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) reconstruction.

Evaluation was performed using experimental data from a low magnification pinhole SPECT system that consisted of a rotating flat detector with a monolithic scintillator crystal. The SRM was computed following two approaches, which were based on Monte Carlo simulations (MC-SRM) and analytical techniques in combination with an experimental characterization (AE-SRM). The spatial response of the system, obtained by using the two approaches, was compared with experimental data. The effect of the MC-SRM and AE-SRM approaches on the reconstructed image was assessed in terms of image contrast, signal-to-noise ratio, image quality, and spatial resolution. To this end, acquisitions were carried out using a hot cylinder phantom (consisting of five fillable rods with diameters of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 mm and a uniform cylindrical chamber) and a custom-made Derenzo phantom, with center-to-center distances between adjacent rods of 1.5, 2.0, and 3.0 mm.

Good agreement was found for the spatial response of the system between measured data and results derived from MC-SRM and AE-SRM. Only minor differences for point sources at distances smaller than the radius of rotation and large incidence angles were found. Assessment of the effect on the reconstructed image showed a similar contrast for both approaches, with values higher than 0.9 for rod diameters greater than 1 mm and higher than 0.8 for rod diameter of 1 mm. The comparison in terms of image quality showed that all rods in the different sections of a custom-made Derenzo phantom could be distinguished. The spatial resolution (FWHM) was 0.7 mm at iteration 100 using both approaches. The SNR was lower for reconstructed images using MC-SRM than for those reconstructed using AE-SRM, indicating that AE-SRM deals better with the projection noise than MC-SRM.

The authors' findings show that both approaches provide good solutions to the problem of calculating the SRM in pinhole SPECT reconstruction. The AE-SRM was faster to create and handle the projection noise better than MC-SRM. Nevertheless, the AE-SRM required a tedious experimental characterization of the intrinsic detector response. Creation of the MC-SRM required longer computation time and handled the projection noise worse than the AE-SRM.

Nevertheless, the MC-SRM inherently incorporates extensive modeling of the system and therefore experimental characterization was not required.


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