# Penalized maximum-likelihood image reconstruction for lesion detection

Abstract

Detecting cancerous lesions is one major application in emission tomography. In this paper, we study penalized maximum-likelihood image reconstruction for this important clinical task. Compared to analytical reconstruction methods, statistical approaches can improve the image quality by accurately modelling the photon detection process and measurement noise in imaging systems. To explore the full potential of penalized maximum-likelihood image reconstruction for lesion detection, we derived simplified theoretical expressions that allow fast evaluation of the detectability of a random lesion. The theoretical results are used to design the regularization parameters to improve lesion detectability. We conducted computer-based Monte Carlo simulations to compare the proposed penalty function, conventional penalty function, and a penalty function for isotropic point spread function. The lesion detectability is measured by a channelized Hotelling observer. The results show that the proposed penalty function outperforms the other penalty functions for lesion detection. The relative improvement is dependent on the size of the lesion. However, we found that the penalty function optimized for a 5 mm lesion still outperforms the other two penalty functions for detecting a 14 mm lesion. Therefore, it is feasible to use the penalty function designed for small lesions in image reconstruction, because detection of large lesions is relatively easy.