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Purpose: Due to the combination of high-frequency use and relatively high diagnostic radiation dose (>9 mSv for one scan), there is a need to lower the radiation dose used in myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI) studies in cardiac gated single photon emission computed tomography (GSPECT) in order to reduce its population based cancer risk. The aim of this study is to assess quantitatively the potential utility of advanced 4D reconstruction for GSPECT for significantly lowered imaging dose. Methods: For quantitative evaluation, Monte Carlo simulation with the 4D NURBS-based cardiac-torso (NCAT) phantom is used for GSPECT imaging at half and quarter count levels in the projections emulating lower injected activity (dose) levels. Both 4D and 3D reconstruction methods are applied at these lowered dose levels, and compared with standard clinical spatiotemporal reconstruction (ST121) at full dose using a number of metrics on the reconstructed images: (1) overall reconstruction accuracy of the myocardium, (2) regional bias-variance analysis of the left ventricle (LV) wall, (3) uniformity of the LV wall, (4) accuracy of the time activity curve (TAC) of the LV wall, and (5) detectability of perfusion defects using channelized Hotelling observer. As a preliminary demonstration, two sets of patient data acquired in list-mode are used to illustrate the conservation of both image quality and LV ejection fraction (LVEF) by 4D reconstruction where only a portion of the acquired counts at each projection angle are used to mimic low-dose acquisitions. Results: Compared to ST121 at standard dose, even at quarter dose 4D achieved better performance on overall reconstruction accuracy of the myocardium (28.7% improvement on relative root mean square error: standard vs 4D quarter p-value < 10-30), regional bias-variance analysis, and similar performance on accuracy of the TAC of the LV wall and detectability of perfusion defects. A slight degradation in uniformity of the LV wall was observed in 4D at quarter dose due to use of scatter correction which increases reconstruction variance. The reconstructed images from simulated and patient data show that 4D at quarter dose is visually comparable to ST121 at standard dose, if not better. Compared to ST121 and 3D, 4D images exhibit less noise artifacts and better definition of the LV wall. The 4D images are also observed to be more consistent between half dose and quarter dose. 4D also yields more consistent LVEF results at different count levels on the patient data. Conclusions: With various quantitative metrics 4D reconstruction is demonstrated to achieve better or comparable performance at quarter dose (∼2.25 mSv, 75% dose reduction) compared to conventional clinical reconstruction at standard dose (∼9 mSv). Preliminary results from two patient datasets also show that 4D at an equivalent quarter dose can achieve better performance than clinical and 3D methods at higher dose levels. Such a significant dose reduction (75%) has not been demonstrated quantitatively in previous studies in GSPECT. These promising results warrant further investigations on the lower bound of dose reduction with different reconstruction strategies and more comprehensive clinical studies with greater patient variability. © 2013 American Association of Physicists in Medicine.

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Medical Physics