DOI: 10.1186/s40658-017-0186-3Pages: 1-17

Design and implementation of a prototype head and neck phantom for the performance evaluation of gamma imaging systems

1. University of Leicester, Space Research Centre, Department of Physics and Astronomy

2. King Khalid University, Radiological Sciences Department, College of Applied Medical Sciences

3. University of Nottingham, Radiological Sciences, School of Medicine

4. Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering

Correspondence to:
Mohammed S. Alqahtani




A prototype anthropomorphic head and neck phantom has been designed to simulate the adult head and neck anatomy including some internal organs and tissues of interest, such as thyroid gland and sentinel lymph nodes (SLNs). The design of the head and neck phantom includes an inner jig holding the simulated SLNs and thyroid gland. The thyroid gland structure was manufactured using three-dimensional (3D) printing taking into consideration the morphology and shape of a healthy adult thyroid gland.


The head and neck phantom was employed to simulate a situation where there are four SLNs distributed at two different vertical levels and at two depths within the neck. Contrast to noise ratio (CNR) calculations were performed for the detected SLNs at an 80 mm distance between both pinhole collimators (0.5 and 1.0 mm diameters) and the surface of the head and neck phantom with a 100 s acquisition time. The recorded CNR values for the simulated SLNs are higher when the hybrid gamma camera (HGC) was fitted with the 1.0 mm diameter pinhole collimator. For instance, the recorded CNR values for the superficially simulated SLN (15 mm depth) containing 0.1 MBq of 99mTc using 0.5 and 1.0 mm diameter pinhole collimators are 6.48 and 16.42, respectively (~87% difference).

Gamma and hybrid optical images were acquired using the HGC for the simulated thyroid gland. The count profiles through the middle of the simulated thyroid gland images provided by both pinhole collimators were obtained. The HGC could clearly differentiate the individual peaks of both thyroid lobes in the gamma image produced by the 0.5-mm pinhole collimator. In contrast, the recorded count profile for the acquired image using the 1.0-mm-diameter pinhole collimator showed broader peaks for both lobes, reflecting the degradation of the spatial resolution with increasing the diameter of the pinhole collimator.


This anthropomorphic head and neck phantom provides a valuable tool for assessing the imaging ability of gamma cameras used for imaging the head and neck region. The standardisation of test phantoms for SFOV gamma systems will provide an opportunity to collect data across various medical centres. The phantom described is cost effective, reproducible, flexible and anatomically representative.

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  • Accepted: Jun 26, 2017
  • Online: Jul 6, 2017

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