Partial volume effect in SPECT & PET image and impact on radionuclide dosimetry estimates

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Nuclear Medicine, Royal North Shore Hospital St Leonards NSW 2065

2 Sydney Vital Translational Cancer Research Centre, Sydney, Australia


Objective(s): The spatial resolution of emission tomographic imaging systems can 
lead to a significant underestimation in the apparent radioactivity concentration in 
objects of size comparable to the resolution volume of the system. The aim of this 
study was to investigate the impact of the partial volume effect (PVE) on clinical 
imaging in PET and SPECT with current state-of-the-art instrumentation and the 
implications that this has for radionuclide dosimetry estimates.
Methods: Using the IEC Image Quality Phantom we have measured the 
underestimation in observed uptake in objects of various sizes for both PET and 
SPECT imaging conditions. Both single pixel measures (i.e., SUVmax) and region of 
interest mean values were examined over a range of object sizes. We have further 
examined the impact of the PVE on dosimetry estimates in OLINDA in 177Lu SPECT 
imaging based on a subject with multiple somatostatin receptor positive 
paragangliomas in the head and neck.
Results: In PET, single pixel estimates of uptake are affected for objects less than 
approximately 18 mm in minor axis with existing systems. In SPECT imaging with 
medium energy collimators (e.g., for 177Lu imaging), however, the underestimates 
are far greater, where single pixel estimates in objects less than 2-3×the resolution 
volume are significantly impacted. In SPECT, region of interest mean values are 
underestimated in objects less than 10 cm in diameter. In the clinical case example, 
the dosimetry measured with SPECT ranged from more than 60% underestimate 
in the largest lesion (28×22 mm in maximal cross-section; 10.2 cc volume) to >99% 
underestimate in the smallest lesion (4×5 mm; 0.06 cc).
Conclusion: The partial volume effect remains a significant factor when estimating 
radionuclide uptake in vivo, especially in small volumes. Accurate estimates of 
absorbed dose from radionuclide therapy will be particularly challenging until 
robust solutions to correct for the PVE are found.


Main Subjects