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Gamma Camera

Block Diagram

System Description
The collimators, scintillation crystal and PM Tubes
are housed in a cylindrical shaped housing
commonly called the camera head.
Collimator normally consists of very large piece
of lead with many small parallel holes of equal
cross section
Gamma rays perpendicular to collimator hole
surface reach to crystal and remaining rays
absorbed in collimator
Only small percentage typically 0.01 % rays
detected by crystal and used for image formation

System Description
The crystal can be between about 25 cm and
40 cm in diameter and about 1 cm thick.
The crystal diameter is dependent on the
application of the device. For example a 25
cm diameter crystal might be used for a
camera designed for cardiac applications
while a larger 40 cm crystal would be used
for producing images of the lungs.
The thickness of the crystal is chosen so that
it provides good detection for the 140 keV rays emitted from 99mTc - which is the most
common radioisotope used today.

System Description
Scintillations produced in the crystal are detected
by a large number of PM tubes which are arranged
in a two-dimensional array.
There is typically between 37 and 91 PM tubes in
modern gamma cameras.
The output voltages generated by these PM tubes
are fed to a position circuit which produces four
output signals called X and Y.
These position signals contain information about
where the scintillations were produced within the
In the most basic gamma camera design they are
fed to a cathode ray oscilloscope (CRO).

System Description
We should note that the position signals also
contain information about the intensity of
each scintillation.
This intensity information can be derived from
the position signals by feeding them to a
summation circuit (marked in the figure)
which adds up the four position signals to
generate a voltage pulse which represents
the intensity of a scintillation.
This voltage pulse is commonly called the Zpulse which following pulse height analysis
(PHA) is fed to the CRO.( control intensity )

Position Determination by a
Gamma Camera
To determine where the gamma was absorbed
on the crystal, consider a system of X and Y
axes superimposed on the crystal surface.
To obtain the Y position of the gamma,
compare the outputs of PM tubes above the X
axis to those below the X axis.
To obtain the X position of the gamma,
compare the outputs of the PM tubes to the
right of the Y axis to those to the left of the Y

Position Signals + X, - X,
+ Y, - Y
If a gamma strikes the very centre of the
crystal, the PM tubes above and below
the X axis will receive the same number
of photons and will generate signals that
have the same signal strength.
In this case, the output of + Y and Y
pulses will be the same, no matter
where the gamma strikes on the X

A gamma that strikes above the X

axis will be further from the PM tubes
below the X axis.
Therefore, it will generate a + Y
signal greater than the Y signal.
The further the gamma strikes above
the X axis, the greater the + Y signal
and the smaller the Y signal will be.

As long as the gamma is on the Y

axis, the signals from the PM tubes to
the right of the Y axis (+ X signal)
and to the left of the Y axis (-X
signal) will be the same.
Since this gamma strikes the centre
of the crystal, all 4 signals (that is,
both the X and Y components) are

However, if the gamma position shifts

off the Y axis toward the +X side, the
signal obtained from the PM tubes to
the right of the Y axis (that is, the + X
signal) will be greater than the X
The more the gamma moves to the + X
side, the greater the + X signal will be
and the smaller the X signal will be.

Energy Normalization
The absolute value of the pulses depends
upon the energy of the gamma.
To make positioning independent of energy, the
ratio between the individual pulses and the sum of
all the pulses is determined.
For example, the 280 keV gamma absorbed in the
crystal at the same location as the 140 keV
produces positioning pulses that are twice the
height of the 140 keV gamma pulse. However, the
normalized pulses are dependent only on gamma
position and are independent of incident gamma

If the gamma camera is used without a collimator,
the radiation coming from the tumor will strike the
surface of the entire camera crystal. In this
situation, the crystal would be flooded with
radiation, and the camera image would not show
the tumor.
Adding a collimator makes a big difference. The
tumor is now clearly visible on the camera image.
The collimator absorbs all the radiation that
reaches the crystal except that which is
located directly opposite the position of the


The collimator can be made from
lead foil or from cast lead.
The walls of each channel in the
collimator are called septa, and if a
photon manages to penetrate the
wall, it is called septal penetration

There are four types of collimators:

Parallel-hole collimator
Converging collimator
Diverging collimator
Pin-hole collimator

Parallel hole collimator

The parallel-hole collimator is used most
often for nuclear medicine studies. It
consists of an array of parallel holes that
are separated by lead walls or septa.
This type of collimator projects a gamma
ray image onto the scintillation crystal
that is the same size as the source.
The field of view of this type collimator is
independent of the subject's distance from
the collimator.

Parallel hole collimator

It is used for general-purpose imaging,
and does not lead to any image
The differences lie in the size and
length of the holes and the thickness
of the lead septa.
Modifying the hole design will change
the sensitivity and spatial
resolution of the system

Length of Collimator Holes

Radiation passes through the collimator
within a solid angle that is determined
by the length of the collimator holes.
The longer the holes, the better the
resolution will be, but the solid angle
will be smaller. As fewer gamma rays pass
through the collimator, the sensitivity is

Diameter of Collimator Holes

The smaller the holes, the better
the collimator resolution will be.
However, the sensitivity will be

Septal Thickness and Energy

The maximum energy of the
radiation determines the necessary
septal thickness of the collimator.
The higher the energy, the
thicker the septa must be to
reduce septal penetration to an
acceptable level.

Summary: Resolution vs Sensitivity

Hole size and length, septal thickness, and
distance to the parallel-hole collimator affect
the camera image.
Decreased hole size ,Increased hole length,
Increased septal thickness
Resolution increases and Sensitivity decreases
Increased hole size, Decreased hole length,
Decreased septal thickness
Sensitivity increases and Resolution decreases
Decreased distance To the collimator
Resolution increases and there is no change in

To increase the resolution, smaller diameter

holes or longer holes are needed, but this
means that more lead is present and thus leads
to a decrease in sensitivity.
To increase sensitivity, the holes need to be
shorter or wider, and this leads to a decrease in
spatial resolution
To image higher energy isotopes such as Ga-67
or I-131, the collimator needs to have thicker
septa in order to stop penetration. This
produces a heavier collimator with lower

The Pinhole collimator

Acts just like a pinhole camera
and produces a magnified and
inverted image of the object.
This is typically used to examine
small objects such as the thyroid
gland and the hip joint.
However, because there is only
one hole, the sensitivity is not
very good and the image is
distorted because the
magnification will very with
depth of the object

The Converging Collimator

Many holes, all aimed
at a focal point in front
of the camera
Magnifies the image;
increases as the
object is moved away
from the collimator

The Diverging collimator

Produces a minified image, and
was used to enable a whole
body image, or a lung field,
which was larger than the
camera face, to fit onto a single
Unfortunately, this also led to a
decrease in spatial resolution.
The advances in technology
have produced large field

Things to know about Collimators:

They are usually made from lead.

Holes are round, triangular or hexagonal.
The lead strips between holes are called septa.
Parallel hole collimators project the same object
size onto the camera, and the field of view (FOV)
does not change with distance.
LEAP, stands for low energy all purpose.
Camera resolution degrades severely with
distance from the collimator.
Higher energy radionuclides require a high energy
A high energy collimator needs thicker septa

A converging collimator produces a

magnified image
A diverging collimator produces a minified
Pinhole collimators generate a magnified
inverted image.
High sensitivity collimators have bigger
holes (less lead)
High resolution collimators have smaller or
longer holes. (more lead)

Performance Parameters

Resolving time
Spatial resolution
Spatial distortion

Governed by counting efficiency of
camera components
Defined as the number of counts
per second that system obtains
for each unit of activity being
Dependent on geometrical efficiency
of the collimator, efficiency of crystal
and width of the PHA

Most cameras use crystal that have

thickness of 9.5mm
Fraction of incident photons that is
completely absorbed varies inversely
with respect to the photon energy
called crystal efficiency

Resolving time
Counts observed per unit time will be directly
proportional to the amount of activity
As the intensity of gamma ray increases the
probability that two rays will arrive the same time
This produces two overlapping flashes in the
crystal which are interpreted in the system
coming from a single higher energy photon
These are normally rejected by PHA
Finite dead time of electronics leads to counting

Ideally, camera should have a
uniform response across its field of
System uniformity varies by as much
as 15 % over the entire crystal
Counts per unit area in response to
uniform gamma flux depends on
crystal response, spatial photo peak
alignment and linearity

Spatial resolution
Systems ability to distinguish
between two closely spaced points
It is limited by collimator
characteristics, scatter and systems
ability to accurately determine point
in the crystal
As gamma energy increases,
collimation become more difficult,
septal penetration increases

Photons with less energy below 70 kev do

not produce sufficient light therefore
resolution gets degraded
Above 250 kev poor collimation and increase
in multiple absorption of Compton scatter
System resolution can be improved by
increasing the number of photomultiplier
tubes used for detecting light flashes in the
crystal but leads to incraesing cost and
system complexity

Spatial distortion
Co-ordinates calculated by decoder
for any event are subjected to both
random and systematic errors
Hence events are plotted at improper
locations in the image

Gamma camera and computer

X and Y pulses are converted into
digital by two A/D converter
Z pulse used to control the
transmission of these signals

Quality control of scintillation


Energy resolution
Flood field uniformity
Spatial resolution
Spatial distortion
Counting rate loss

Energy resolution
A measure of its ability to distinguish between
interactions depositing different energies in its
Refers to ability of system to reject events associated
with scattered photons
Depends upon width of the photo peak in the energy
Energy spreads expressed in terms of FWHM
Causes of such spread are intrinsic fluctuation
in the light emitted from event to event, light
collection efficiency and electron multiplication
spread from PMT

To determination use single channel

analyzer with a window width of
about 1 % to plot a photo peak
Then determine percentage
resolution with the help of baseline
reading at peak and FWHM points
Six monthly checking is sufficient to
keep track of consistency of

Flood field uniformity

Refers to variations in the system
response when crystal is subjected to a
uniform gamma radiation flux
Intrinsic uniformity measured using a point
source placed 4 to 5 times the largest
dimension of the crystal away from the camera
System uniformity measured using a uniform
planar source in front of the collimated camera
Degree of non uniformity is quantified in terms
of the count density

This is measured over the whole field of

view of the crystal and count densities at
various locations are determined
Maximum and minimum values of count
densities are identified
Integral uniformity is expressed by
following relation
IU = (CDmax - CDmin) / (CDmax +
CDmin) x 100

Smaller values of IU corresponds to

better specification and quality
In order to determine fast spatial
variation in count density then
differential uniformity is specified
DU = (CD high CD low)max / (CD
high + Cd low) X 100

CD high CD low max refers to

highest difference value observed
among the different positions of
Determination of flood field
uniformity with and without
collimator helps to identify a faulty or
damaged collimators
Uniformity test carry out once in a

Spatial resolution
It refers to the systems ability to distinguish
between two closely spaced points or line
Spatial resolution is a measure of the cameras
ability to resolve small objects in the field of view.
It is inversely proportional to gamma energy
It is determined primarily by measuring the FWHM
of the recorded count profile along X or Y coordinate
Spread is measured right angles to the line

FWHM gives an estimate of the

minimum separation of the two thin
FWHM and resolvable distance
between two bars or lines is given by
Where K = calibration factor = 1.75

Intrinsic resolution of camera at

given energy, is measured without
any collimator using line source of
that energy
A fine tube of internal diameter of
about 0.5 mm, is filled with the
isotope-liquid and is placed right
angles to co-ordinate axis

Rs2 = Rc2 + Ri2
Rs: system resolution
Rc: collimator resolution
Ri: Intrinsic resolution
Deterioration in the intrinsic resolution
is due to the noise contributed by the
photomultipliers, poor optical coupling,
incorrect setting of window, high count

Various phantoms used for

performing resolution test. Four
Quadrant phantom
It is essential to rotate the phantom
four times in 90 deg in order to
evaluate whole detector area
Once in six months

Spatial distortion
It represents a non-linearity or inaccuracy in
the positional output
To find non-linearity in the system, use
transmission type bar phantom with lead bars,
so as to produce about 5 mm width exposure of
the crystal
When the co-ordinate signal is fed to an MCA,
the spatial spectrum is obtained
Then determine spacing between two bars and
hence the error associated with respect to the
actual distance of the bars
Once a week

Countrate loss
When the output countrate is lower
than the input countrate, some
counts are lost due to the constraint
of minimum time requirement for
signal processing
This means that two events which
take place rapidly cannot be resolved
Dead time of 2 microsec will result
counting loss of 10%

Two source method is very useful for

determining the dead time
Two sources giving 3000 cps
together, are counted one by one
and then together
Following equation
Repeated once in three month

Plane Source Sensitivity

Systems ability to produce a finite number
of events in direct proportion to the
strength of radioactive source to which
detector is exposed
It quantified as the countrate per unit
activity for a flat source at a defined
distance from the crystal face
It is directly related to the crystal intrinsic
efficiency for particular gamma energy
and geometrical efficiency of collimator

Poor efficiency of light collection and

conversion to electrical pulses,
counting loss due to PHA channel
setting, collimator damage.
Once in month

Rotational uniformity
Photomultiplier tubes (PMT) are known to
undergo gain shifts when their spatial
orientation changes with respect to an
external magnetic field.
These effects can be produced by the
earths magnetic field (0.05 mT) as well
as fields around magnetic resonance
imaging systems and particle accelerators
such as cyclotrons.

Rotational field uniformity and sensitivity

(1) Set a 20% symmetric analyzer window.
(2) Collect a 5 million count 64X64-image with the detector
at 0.
(3) Repeat for 90, 180, 270, and 360 using the time
required to collect the 5 million count image at 0.
(4) Calculate the maximum sensitivity variation:
Max tot cts-Min tot cts
Max Sens Var(%)= Max tot cts+Min tot cts
x 100.
(5) Subtract the 0 flood image from the flood images
collected at 90, 180, 270, and 360.
(6) Subtract the 270 image from the 90 image.
Analysis: Check each of the difference images for structured,
nonrandom patterns. File for future reference. The
Maximum Sensitivity Variation should not exceed 0.75%

A 1% change in the secondary emission

ratio per dynode results in a change of
more than 10% in the charge gain of a tube
Manufacturers have incorporated magnetic
shielding into SPECT detector assemblies to
minimize PMT gain shifts.
The smaller tubes used in current
generation systems are easier to shield
against external magnetic fields than larger

Spatial resolution
In planar imaging it depends on the intrinsic capabilities
of the scintillation camera, the geometrical properties of
the collimator, and the presence of scatter.
In SPECT, additional factors affect resolution because
the information is gathered over multiple angles. Precise
positioning of the gantry, detector, and table and
calibration of the center of rotation (COR) is required.
In addition, the reconstruction matrix size, filter, and
use of pre and post-processing procedures can affect
the measured spa

Tomographic uniformity
The uniformity of reconstructed
images is very sensitive to
scintillation camera field uniformity.