IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging vol:27 issue:1 pages:36-46
High-resolution functional imaging of small animals is often obtained by single pinhole SPECT with circular orbit acquisition. Multipinhole SPECT adds information due to its improved sampling, and can improve the trade-off between resolution and sensitivity. To evaluate different pinhole collimator designs an efficient method is needed that quantifies the reconstruction image quality. In this paper, we propose a fast, approximate method that examines the quality of individual voxels of a postsmoothed maximum likelihood expectation maximization (MLEM) reconstruction by studying their linearized local impulse response (LLIR) and (co)variance for a predefined target resolution. For validation, the contrast-to-noise ratios (CNRs) in some voxels of a homogeneous sphere and of a realistic rat brain software phantom were calculated for many single and multipinhole designs. A good agreement was observed between the CNRs obtained with the approximate method and those obtained with postsmoothed MLEM reconstructions of simulated noisy projections. This good agreement was quantified by a least squares fit through these results, which yielded a line with slope 1.02 (1.00 expected) and a y-intercept close to zero (0 expected). 95.4% of the validation points lie within three standard deviations from that line. Using the approximate method, the influence on the CNR of varying a parameter in realistic single and multipinhole designs was examined. The investigated parameters were the aperture diameter, the distance between the apertures and the axis-of-rotation, the focal distance, the acceptance angle, the position of the apertures, the focusing distance, and the number of pinholes. The results can generally be explained by the change in sensitivity, the amount of postsmoothing, and the amount of overlap in the projections. The method was applied to multipinhole designs with apertures focusing at a single point, but is also applicable to other designs.