More widespread use of positron emission tomography (PET) imaging is limited by its high cost and radiation dose. Reductions in PET scan time or radiotracer dosage typically degrade diagnostic image quality (DIQ). Deep-learning-based reconstruction may improve DIQ, but such methods have not been clinically evaluated in a realistic multicenter, multivendor environment. In this study, we evaluated the performance and generalizability of a deep-learning-based image-quality enhancement algorithm applied to fourfold reduced-count whole-body PET in a realistic clinical oncologic imaging environment with multiple blinded readers, institutions, and scanner types. We demonstrate that the low-count-enhanced scans were noninferior to the standard scans in DIQ (p < 0.05) and overall diagnostic confidence (p < 0.001) independent of the underlying PET scanner used. Lesion detection for the low-count-enhanced scans had a high patient-level sensitivity of 0.94 (0.83–0.99) and specificity of 0.98 (0.95–0.99). Interscan kappa agreement of 0.85 was comparable to intrareader (0.88) and pairwise inter-reader agreements (maximum of 0.72). SUV quantification was comparable in the reference regions and lesions (lowest p-value=0.59) and had high correlation (lowest CCC = 0.94). Thus, we demonstrated that deep learning can be used to restore diagnostic image quality and maintain SUV accuracy for fourfold reduced-count PET scans, with interscan variations in lesion depiction, lower than intra- and interreader variations. This method generalized to an external validation set of clinical patients from multiple institutions and scanner types. Overall, this method may enable either dose or exam-duration reduction, increasing safety and lowering the cost of PET imaging.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Computer Science Applications
- Health Informatics
- Health Information Management