Towards Lower-Dose PET using Physics-Based Uncertainty-Aware Multimodal Learning with Robustness to Out-of-Distribution Data

Viswanath P. Sudarshan, Uddeshya Upadhyay, Gary F. Egan, Zhaolin Chen, Suyash P. Awate

Radiation exposure in positron emission tomography (PET) imaging limits its usage in the studies of radiation-sensitive populations, e.g., pregnant women, children, and adults that require longitudinal imaging. Reducing the PET radiotracer dose or acquisition time reduces photon counts, which can deteriorate image quality. Recent deep-neural-network (DNN) based methods for image-to-image translation enable the mapping of low-quality PET images (acquired using substantially reduced dose), coupled with the associated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images, to high-quality PET images. However, such DNN methods focus on applications involving test data that match the statistical characteristics of the training data very closely and give little attention to evaluating the performance of these DNNs on new out-of-distribution (OOD) acquisitions. We propose a novel DNN formulation that models the (i) underlying sinogram-based physics of the PET imaging system and (ii) the uncertainty in the DNN output through the per-voxel heteroscedasticity of the residuals between the predicted and the high-quality reference images. Our sinogram-based uncertainty-aware DNN framework, namely, suDNN, estimates a standard-dose PET image using multimodal input in the form of (i) a low-dose/low-count PET image and (ii) the corresponding multi-contrast MRI images, leading to improved robustness of suDNN to OOD acquisitions. Results on in vivo simultaneous PET-MRI, and various forms of OOD data in PET-MRI, show the benefits of suDNN over the current state of the art, quantitatively and qualitatively.

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