Open Access Original research

Effects of rigid and non-rigid image registration on test-retest variability of quantitative [18F]FDG PET/CT studies

Floris HP van Velden1*, Paul van Beers1, Johan Nuyts2, Linda M Velasquez3, Wendy Hayes3, Adriaan A Lammertsma1, Ronald Boellaard1 and Dirk Loeckx4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nuclear Medicine & PET Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 Division of Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging Center, University Hospital Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

3 Discovery Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Princeton, NJ, USA

4 Center for Processing Speech and Images, Department of Electrical Engineering, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

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EJNMMI Research 2012, 2:10  doi:10.1186/2191-219X-2-10

Published: 10 March 2012



[18F]fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose ([18F]FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) is a valuable tool for monitoring response to therapy in oncology. In longitudinal studies, however, patients are not scanned in exactly the same position. Rigid and non-rigid image registration can be applied in order to reuse baseline volumes of interest (VOI) on consecutive studies of the same patient. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of various image registration strategies on standardized uptake value (SUV) and metabolic volume test-retest variability (TRT).


Test-retest whole-body [18F]FDG PET/CT scans were collected retrospectively for 11 subjects with advanced gastrointestinal malignancies (colorectal carcinoma). Rigid and non-rigid image registration techniques with various degrees of locality were applied to PET, CT, and non-attenuation corrected PET (NAC) data. VOI were drawn independently on both test and retest scans. VOI drawn on test scans were projected onto retest scans and the overlap between projected VOI and manually drawn retest VOI was quantified using the Dice similarity coefficient (DSC). In addition, absolute (unsigned) differences in TRT of SUVmax, SUVmean, metabolic volume and total lesion glycolysis (TLG) were calculated in on one hand the test VOI and on the other hand the retest VOI and projected VOI. Reference values were obtained by delineating VOIs on both scans separately.


Non-rigid PET registration showed the best performance (median DSC: 0.82, other methods: 0.71-0.81). Compared with the reference, none of the registration types showed significant absolute differences in TRT of SUVmax, SUVmean and TLG (p > 0.05). Only for absolute TRT of metabolic volume, significant lower values (p < 0.05) were observed for all registration strategies when compared to delineating VOIs separately, except for non-rigid PET registrations (p = 0.1). Non-rigid PET registration provided good volume TRT (7.7%) that was smaller than the reference (16%).


In particular, non-rigid PET image registration showed good performance similar to delineating VOI on both scans separately, and with smaller TRT in metabolic volume estimates.

Positron emission tomography (PET); Test-retest variability; Image registration; Non-rigid; Rigid