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Development of a PET scanner for simultaneously imaging small animals with MRI and PET.


Recently, positron emission tomography (PET) is playing an increasingly important role in the diagnosis and staging of cancer. Combined PET and X-ray computed tomography (PET-CT) scanners are now the modality of choice in cancer treatment planning. More recently, the combination of PET and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is being explored in many sites. Combining PET and MRI has presented many challenges since the photo-multiplier tubes (PMT) in PET do not function in high magnetic fields, and conventional PET detectors distort MRI images. Solid state light sensors like avalanche photo-diodes (APDs) and more recently silicon photo-multipliers (SiPMs) are much less sensitive to magnetic fields thus easing the compatibility issues. This paper presents the results of a group of Canadian scientists who are developing a PET detector ring which fits inside a high field small animal MRI scanner with the goal of providing simultaneous PET and MRI images of small rodents used in pre-clinical medical research. We discuss the evolution of both the crystal blocks (which detect annihilation photons from positron decay) and the SiPM array performance in the last four years which together combine to deliver significant system performance in terms of speed, energy and timing resolution.