Background: Spatial normalization is a prerequisite step for analyzing positron emission tomography (PET) images both by using volume-of-interest (VOI) template and voxel-based analysis. Magnetic resonance (MR) or ligand-specific PET templates are currently used for spatial normalization of PET images. We used computed tomography (CT) images acquired with PET/CT scanner for the spatial normalization for [18F]-N-3-fluoropropyl-2-betacarboxymethoxy-3-beta-(4-iodophenyl) nortropane (FP-CIT) PET images and compared target-to-cerebellar standardized uptake value ratio (SUVR) values with those obtained from MR- or PET-guided spatial normalization method in healthy controls and patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). Methods: We included 71 healthy controls and 56 patients with PD who underwent [18F]-FP-CIT PET scans with a PET/CT scanner and T1-weighted MR scans. Spatial normalization of MR images was done with a conventional spatial normalization tool (cvMR) and with DARTEL toolbox (dtMR) in statistical parametric mapping software. The CT images were modified in two ways, skull-stripping (ssCT) and intensity transformation (itCT). We normalized PET images with cvMR-, dtMR-, ssCT-, itCT-, and PET-guided methods by using specific templates for each modality and measured striatal SUVR with a VOI template. The SUVR values measured with FreeSurfer-generated VOIs (FSVOI) overlaid on original PET images were also used as a gold standard for comparison. Results: The SUVR values derived from all four structure-guided spatial normalization methods were highly correlated with those measured with FSVOI (P < 0.0001). Putaminal SUVR values were highly effective for discriminating PD patients from controls. However, the PET-guided method excessively overestimated striatal SUVR values in the PD patients by more than 30% in caudate and putamen, and thereby spoiled the linearity between the striatal SUVR values in all subjects and showed lower disease discrimination ability. Two CT-guided methods showed comparable capability with the MR-guided methods in separating PD patients from controls and showed better correlation between putaminal SUVR values and the parkinsonian motor severity than the PET-guided method. Conclusion: CT-guided spatial normalization methods provided reliable striatal SUVR values comparable to those obtained with MR-guided methods. CT-guided methods can be useful for analyzing dopamine transporter PET images when MR images are unavailable.
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© 2015 Kim et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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