The use of noise equivalent count rate and the NEMA phantom for PET image quality evaluation
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PET image quality is directly associated with two important parameters among others: count-rate performance and image signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). The framework of noise equivalent count rate (NECR) was developed back in the 1990s and has been widely used since then to evaluate count-rate performance for PET systems. The concept of NECR is not entirely straightforward, however, and among the issues requiring clarification are its original definition, its relationship to image quality, and its consistency among different derivation methods. In particular, we try to answer whether a higher NECR measurement using a standard NEMA phantom actually corresponds to better imaging performance. The paper includes the following topics: 1) revisiting the original analytical model for NECR derivation; 2) validating three methods for NECR calculation based on the NEMA phantom/standard; and 3) studying the spatial dependence of NECR and quantitative relationship between NECR and image SNR.
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