Preclinical positron emission tomography scanner based on a monolithic annulus of scintillator: initial design study

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Positron emission tomography (PET) scanners designed for imaging of small animals have transformed translational research by reducing the necessity to invasively monitor physiology and disease progression. Virtually all of these scanners are based on the use of pixelated detector modules arranged in rings. This design, while generally successful, has some limitations. Specifically, use of discrete detector modules to construct PET scanners reduces detection sensitivity and can introduce artifacts in reconstructed images, requiring the use of correction methods. To address these challenges, and facilitate measurement of photon depth-of-interaction in the detector, we investigated a small animal PET scanner (called AnnPET) based on a monolithic annulus of scintillator. The scanner was created by placing 12 flat facets around the outer surface of the scintillator to accommodate placement of silicon photomultiplier arrays. Its performance characteristics were explored using Monte Carlo simulations and sections of the NEMA NU4-2008 protocol. Results from this study revealed that AnnPET’s reconstructed spatial resolution is predicted to be ∼1  mm full width at half maximum in the radial, tangential, and axial directions. Peak detection sensitivity is predicted to be 10.1%. Images of simulated phantoms (mini-hot rod and mouse whole body) yielded promising results, indicating the potential of this system for enhancing PET imaging of small animals.