DOI: 10.1186/s13550-018-0362-zPages: 1-12

Feasibility of 15O-water PET studies of auditory system activation during general anesthesia in children

1. Hannover Medical School, Department of Nuclear Medicine

2. Cluster of Excellence Hearing4all, Hannover Medical School

3. Hannover Medical School, Department of Medical Physics and Radiation Protection

4. Hannover Medical School, Department of Otolaryngology

5. Hospital Diakovere Annastift, Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine

6. Hannover Medical School, Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine

Correspondence to:
Georg Berding
Tel: +49 511 532 5598




15O-Water positron emission tomography (PET) enables functional imaging of the auditory system during stimulation via a promontory electrode or cochlear implant, which is not possible using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Although PET has been introduced in this context decades ago, its feasibility when performed during general anesthesia has not yet been explored. However, due to a shift to earlier (and bilateral) auditory implantation, the need to study children during general anesthesia appeared, since they are not able to cooperate during scanning. Therefore, we evaluated retrospectively results of individual SPM (statistical parametric mapping) analysis of 15O-water PET in 17 children studied during general anesthesia and compared them to those in 9 adults studied while awake. Specifically, the influence of scan duration, smoothing filter kernel employed during preprocessing, and cut-off value used for statistical inferences were evaluated. Frequencies, peak heights, and extents of activations in auditory and extra-auditory brain regions (AR and eAR) were registered.


It was possible to demonstrate activations in auditory brain regions during general anesthesia; however, the frequency and markedness of positive findings were dependent on some of the abovementioned influence factors. Scan duration (60 vs. 90 s) had no significant influence on peak height of auditory cortex activations. To achieve a similar frequency and extent of AR activations during general anesthesia compared to waking state, a lower cut-off for statistical inferences (p < 0.05 or p < 0.01 vs. p < 0.001) had to be applied. However, this lower cut-off was frequently associated with unexpected, “artificial” activations in eAR. These activations in eAR could be slightly reduced by the use of a stronger smoothing filter kernel during preprocessing of the data (e.g., [30 mm]3).


Our data indicate that it is feasible to detect auditory cortex activations in 15O-water PET during general anesthesia. Combined with the improved signal to noise ratios of modern PET scanners, this suggests reasonable prospects for further evaluation of the method for clinical use in auditory implant users. Adapted parameters for data analysis seem to be helpful to improve the proportion of signals in AR versus eAR.

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  • Accepted: Jan 11, 2018
  • Online: Feb 5, 2018

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