New applications for positron emission tomography (PET) and combined PET/magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are currently emerging, for example in the fields of neurological, breast, and pediatric imaging. Such applications require improved image quality, reduced dose, shorter scanning times, and more precise quantification. This can be achieved by means of dedicated scanners based on ultrahigh-performance detectors, which should provide excellent spatial resolution, precise depth-of-interaction (DOI) estimation, outstanding time-of-flight (TOF) capability, and high detection efficiency. Here, we introduce such an ultrahigh-performance TOF/DOI PET detector, based on a 32 mm × 32 mm × 22 mm monolithic LYSO:Ce crystal. The 32 mm × 32 mm front and back faces of the crystal are coupled to a digital photon counter (DPC) array, in so-called dual-sided readout (DSR) configuration. The fully digital detector offers a spatial resolution of ∼1.1 mm full width at half maximum (FWHM)/∼1.2 mm mean absolute error, together with a DOI resolution of ∼2.4 mm FWHM, an energy resolution of 10.2% FWHM, and a coincidence resolving time of 147 ps FWHM. The time resolution closely approaches the best results (135 ps FWHM) obtained to date with small crystals made from the same material coupled to the same DPC arrays, illustrating the excellent correction for optical and electronic transit time spreads that can be achieved in monolithic scintillators using maximum-likelihood techniques for estimating the time of interaction. The performance barely degrades for events with missing data (up to 6 out of 32 DPC dies missing), permitting the use of almost all events registered under realistic acquisition conditions. Moreover, the calibration procedures and computational methods used for position and time estimation follow recently made improvements that make them fast and practical, opening up realistic perspectives for using DSR monolithic scintillator detectors in TOF-PET and TOF-PET/MRI systems.
- depth of interaction (DOI)
- digital photon counter (DPC)
- dual-sided readout (DSR)
- k-NN position estimation
- maximum likelihood interaction time estimation (MLITE)
- monolithic scintillator detector
- positron emission tomography (PET)