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A novel phantom technique for evaluating the performance of PET auto-segmentation methods in delineating heterogeneous and irregular lesions

Berthon, Beatrice, Marshall, Christopher ORCID:, Holmes, R. and Spezi, Emiliano ORCID: 2015. A novel phantom technique for evaluating the performance of PET auto-segmentation methods in delineating heterogeneous and irregular lesions. EJNMMI Physics 2 (1) , 13. 10.1186/s40658-015-0116-1

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Background Positron Emission Tomography (PET)-based automatic segmentation (PET-AS) methods can improve tumour delineation for radiotherapy treatment planning, particularly for Head and Neck (H&N) cancer. Thorough validation of PET-AS on relevant data is currently needed. Printed subresolution sandwich (SS) phantoms allow modelling heterogeneous and irregular tracer uptake, while providing reference uptake data. This work aimed to demonstrate the usefulness of the printed SS phantom technique in recreating complex realistic H&N radiotracer uptake for evaluating several PET-AS methods. Methods Ten SS phantoms were built from printouts representing 2mm-spaced slices of modelled H&N uptake, printed using black ink mixed with 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose, and stacked between 2mm thick plastic sheets. Spherical lesions were modelled for two contrasted uptake levels, and irregular and spheroidal tumours were modelled for homogeneous, and heterogeneous uptake including necrotic patterns. The PET scans acquired were segmented with ten custom PET-AS methods: adaptive iterative thresholding (AT), region growing, clustering applied to 2 to 8 clusters, and watershed transform-based segmentation. The difference between the resulting contours and the ground truth from the image template was evaluated using the Dice Similarity Coefficient (DSC), Sensitivity and Positive Predictive value. Results Realistic H&N images were obtained within 90 min of preparation. The sensitivity of binary PET-AS and clustering using small numbers of clusters dropped for highly heterogeneous spheres. The accuracy of PET-AS methods dropped between 4% and 68% for irregular lesions compared to spheres of the same volume. For each geometry and uptake modelled with the SS phantoms, we report the number of clusters resulting in optimal segmentation. Radioisotope distributions representing necrotic uptakes proved most challenging for most methods. Two PET-AS methods did not include the necrotic region in the segmented volume. Conclusions Printed SS phantoms allowed identifying advantages and drawbacks of the different methods, determining the most robust PET-AS for the segmentation of heterogeneities and complex geometries, and quantifying differences across methods in the delineation of necrotic lesions. The printed SS phantom technique provides key advantages in the development and evaluation of PET segmentation methods and has a future in the field of radioisotope imaging.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Engineering
Uncontrolled Keywords: Positron emission tomography; 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose; Imaging phantoms; Image segmentation; Inkjet printing; Radiotherapy
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited.
Publisher: Springer
ISSN: 2197-7364
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Date of Acceptance: 2 June 2015
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2023 20:31

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