Objective: Positron emission tomography (PET) scanners require periodic monitoring in order to maintain scanner performance. The aim of the present study was to examine the deterioration of PET scanner performance caused by aging. Methods: We retrospectively examined PET scanner performance alterations in terms of sensitivity, spatial resolution, false coincidences due to scatter and random coincidences based on 13 years of follow-up data, including data when the PET scanner underwent an overhaul at the 10th year after installation. Sensitivity and scatter fraction were calculated by using cross calibration factor (CCF) measurement data, which are collected routinely. Efficacy of the examining the sensitivity and scatter was confirmed by NEMA measurements. Trans-axial resolution was measured as full width at half-maximum (FWHM) and full width at tenth-maximum (FWTM) at 0-20 cm offset from the field of view (FOV) center at the time of installation, 8 years after installation, and immediately after the overhaul. Random coincidence rate fraction was measured in a wide range of count rates before and after the overhaul. Results and discussion: The results indicated that the total reduction of sensitivity during the first 10 years was 41% of the initial value in terms of NEMA measurement, and that the annual reduction of sensitivity progressed at a rate of 4.7% per year in terms of CCF measurement data. The changes in sensitivity can be calculated using CCF measurement data. Regarding the spatial resolution, mean FWHM and FWTM values were increased by 1.7 and 3.6%, respectively, in 8 years after installation. The relative scatter fraction was significantly increased compared with that before the overhaul. The random fraction decreased by 10-15% after the overhaul within a certain range of random count rates (1-120 kcps). In the case of our scanner, the parameter that displayed the largest change was the sensitivity, and this change was thought to be caused by the reduction of photomultiplier tube (PMT) gain, although the changes in PMT gain can cause various types of performance deterioration, as investigated in this study. Conclusion: We observed that the sensitivity of our PET scanner generally deteriorated due to aging. Sensitivity monitoring using CCF measurements can be an easy and useful method for monitoring and maintaining the performance of PET scanners against aging. Since the data were obtained from a single scanner, the authors would encourage the initiation of a follow-up study involving various scanners.
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