Single-photon emission-computed tomography (SPECT) provides a mechanism to estimate regional isotope uptake in lesions and at-risk organs after administration of α -particle-emitting radiopharmaceutical therapies ( α -RPTs). However, this estimation task is challenging due to the complex emission spectra, the very low number of detected counts ( ∼ 20 times lower than in conventional SPECT), the impact of stray-radiation-related noise at these low counts, and the multiple image-degrading processes in SPECT. The conventional reconstruction-based quantification methods are observed to be erroneous for α -RPT SPECT. To address these challenges, we developed a low-count quantitative SPECT (LC-QSPECT) method that directly estimates the regional activity uptake from the projection data (obviating the reconstruction step), compensates for stray-radiation-related noise, and accounts for the radioisotope and SPECT physics, including the isotope spectra, scatter, attenuation, and collimator-detector response, using a Monte Carlo-based approach. The method was validated in the context of 3-D SPECT with 223 Ra , a commonly used radionuclide for α -RPT. Validation was performed using both realistic simulation studies, including a virtual clinical trial, and synthetic and 3-D-printed anthropomorphic physical-phantom studies. Across all studies, the LC-QSPECT method yielded reliable regional-uptake estimates and outperformed the conventional ordered subset expectation-maximization (OSEM)-based reconstruction and geometric transfer matrix (GTM)-based post-reconstruction partial-volume compensation methods. Furthermore, the method yielded reliable uptake across different lesion sizes, contrasts, and different levels of intralesion heterogeneity. Additionally, the variance of the estimated uptake approached the Cramér-Rao bound-defined theoretical limit. In conclusion, the proposed LC-QSPECT method demonstrated the ability to perform reliable quantification for α -RPT SPECT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-74
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Radiation and Plasma Medical Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • Radium-223
  • low counts
  • quantitative single-photon emission-computed tomography (SPECT)
  • regional quantification
  • α-particle therapies


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