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Phys Med Biol. 2014 Jan 6;59(1):43-60. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/59/1/43. Epub 2013 Dec 10.

First full-beam PET acquisitions in proton therapy with a modular dual-head dedicated system.

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Department of Physics, University of Pisa, Largo Bruno Pontecorvo 3, I-56127 Pisa, Italy. Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, Sezione di Pisa, Largo Bruno Pontecorvo 3, I-56127 Pisa, Italy.


During particle therapy irradiation, positron emitters with half-lives ranging from 2 to 20 min are generated from nuclear processes. The half-lives are such that it is possible either to detect the positron signal in the treatment room using an in-beam positron emission tomography (PET) system, right after the irradiation, or to quickly transfer the patient to a close PET/CT scanner. Since the activity distribution is spatially correlated with the dose, it is possible to use PET imaging as an indirect method to assure the quality of the dose delivery. In this work, we present a new dedicated PET system able to operate in-beam. The PET apparatus consists in two 10 cm × 10 cm detector heads. Each detector is composed of four scintillating matrices of 23 × 23 LYSO crystals. The crystal size is 1.9 mm × 1.9 mm × 16 mm. Each scintillation matrix is read out independently with a modularized acquisition system. The distance between the two opposing detector heads was set to 20 cm. The system has very low dead time per detector area and a 3 ns coincidence window, which is capable to sustain high single count rates and to keep the random counts relatively low. This allows a new full-beam monitoring modality that includes data acquisition also while the beam is on. The PET system was tested during the irradiation at the CATANA (INFN, Catania, Italy) cyclotron-based proton therapy facility. Four acquisitions with different doses and dose rates were analysed. In all cases the random to total coincidences ratio was equal or less than 25%. For each measurement we estimated the accuracy and precision of the activity range on a set of voxel lines within an irradiated PMMA phantom. Results show that the inclusion of data acquired during the irradiation, referred to as beam-on data, improves both the precision and accuracy of the range measurement with respect to data acquired only after irradiation. Beam-on data alone are enough to give precisions better than 1 mm when at least 5 Gy are delivered.

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