An automatic method for PET target segmentation using a lookup table based on volume and concentration ratio

Yiran Zheng, Joseph Syh, Min Yao, Barry W. Wessels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Accurate evaluation of functionally significant target volumes in combination with anatomic imaging is of primary importance for effective radiation therapy treatment planning. In this study, a method for rapid and accurate PET image segmentation and volumetrics based on phantom measurements and independent of scanner calibration was developed. A series of spheres ranging in volume from 0.5 mL to 95 mL were imaged in an anthropomorphic phantom of human thorax using two commercial PET and CT/PET scanners. The target to background radioactivity concentration ratio ranged from 3:1 to 12:1 in 11 separate phantom scanning experiments. The results confirmed that optimal segmentation thresholding depends on target volume and radioactivity concentration ratio. This information can be derived from a generalized pre-determined "lookup table" of volume and contrast dependent threshold values instead of using fitted curves derived from machine specific information. A three-step method based on the PET image intensity information alone was used to delineate volumes of interest. First, a mean intensity segmentation method was used to generate an initial estimate of target volume, and the radioactivity concentration ratio was computed by a family of recovery coefficient curves to compensate for the partial volume effect. Next, the appropriate threshold value was obtained from a phantom-generated threshold lookup table. Lastly, a threshold level set method was performed on the threshold value to further refine the target contour by reducing the limitation of global thresholding. The segmentation results were consistent for spheres greater than 2.5 mL which yielded volume average uncertainty of 11.2% in phantom studies. The results of segmented volumes were comparable to those determined by contrast-oriented method and iterative threshold method (ITM). In addition, the new volume segmentation method was applied clinically to ten patients undergoing PET/ CT volume analysis for radiation therapy treatment planning of solitary lung metastases. For these patients, the average PET segmented volumes were within 8.0% of the CT volumes and were highly dependent on the extension of functionally inactive tumor volume. In summary, the current method does not require fitted threshold curves or a priori knowledge of the CT/MRI target volume. This threshold method can be universally applied to radiation therapy treatment planning with comparable accuracy, and may be useful in the rapid identification and assessment of plans containing multiple targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-252
Number of pages10
JournalTechnology in Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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