DOI: 10.1186/s13550-018-0402-8Pages: 1-12

The value of 99mTc-MAA SPECT/CT for lung shunt estimation in 90Y radioembolization: a phantom and patient study

1. Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Radiotherapy Physics

2. University of Michigan, Department of Radiology

3. University of Michigan, Department of Radiation Oncology

Correspondence to:
Yuni K. Dewaraja
Tel: 734-647-2324




A major toxicity concern in radioembolization therapy of hepatic malignancies is radiation-induced pneumonitis and sclerosis due to hepatopulmonary shunting of 90Y microspheres. Currently, 99mTc macroaggregated albumin (99mTc-MAA) imaging is used to estimate the lung shunt fraction (LSF) prior to treatment. The aim of this study was to evaluate the accuracy/precision of LSF estimated from 99mTc planar and SPECT/CT phantom imaging, and within this context, to compare the corresponding LSF and lung-absorbed dose values from 99mTc-MAA patient studies. Additionally, LSFs from pre- and post-therapy imaging were compared.


A liver/lung torso phantom filled with 99mTc to achieve three lung shunt values was scanned by planar and SPECT/CT imaging with repeat acquisitions to assess accuracy and precision. To facilitate processing of patient data, a workflow that relies on SPECT and CT-based auto-contouring to define liver and lung volumes for the LSF calculation was implemented. Planar imaging-based LSF estimates for 40 patients, obtained from their medical records, were retrospectively compared with SPECT/CT imaging-based calculations with attenuation and scatter correction. Additionally, in a subset of 20 patients, the pre-therapy estimates were compared with 90Y PET/CT-based measurements.

In the phantom study, improved accuracy in LSF estimation was achieved using SPECT/CT with attenuation and scatter correction (within 13% of the true value) compared with planar imaging (up to 44% overestimation). The results in patients showed a similar trend with planar imaging significantly overestimating LSF compared to SPECT/CT. There was no correlation between lung shunt estimates and the delay between 99mTc-MAA administration and scanning, but off-target extra hepatic uptake tended to be more likely in patients with a longer delay. The mean lung absorbed dose predictions for the 28 patients who underwent therapy was 9.3 Gy (range 1.3–29.4) for planar imaging and 3.2 Gy (range 0.4–13.4) for SPECT/CT. For the patients with post-therapy imaging, the mean LSF from 90Y PET/CT was 1.0%, (range 0.3–2.8). This value was not significantly different from the mean LSF estimate from 99mTc-MAA SPECT/CT (mean 1.0%, range 0.4–1.6; p = 0.968), but was significantly lower than the mean LSF estimate based on planar imaging (mean 4.1%, range 1.2–15.0; p = 0.0002).


The improved accuracy demonstrated by the phantom study, agreement with 90Y PET/CT in patient studies, and the practicality of using auto-contouring for liver/lung definition suggests that 99mTc-MAA SPECT/CT with scatter and attenuation corrections should be used for lung shunt estimation prior to radioembolization.

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  • Accepted: May 31, 2018
  • Online: Jun 15, 2018

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