We present the first experimental evaluation of a depth-of-interaction (DOI) positron emission tomography (PET) detector using a digital silicon photomultiplier (dSiPM). To measure DOI information from a mono-layer array of scintillation crystals with a single-ended readout, our group has previously proposed and developed a new method based on light spread using triangular reflectors. Since this method relies on measurement of the light distribution, dSiPM, which has a fully digital interface, has several merits for our DOI measurement. The DOI PET detector comprised of a dSiPM sensor (DPC-3200-22-44) coupled with a 14 × 14 array of 2 mm × 2 mm × 20 mm unpolished LGSO crystals. All crystals were covered with triangular reflectors. To obtain a good performance of the DOI PET detector, several parameters of detector were selected as a preliminary experiment. Detector performance was evaluated with the selected parameters and the optimal experimental setup, and a DOI measurement was conducted by irradiating the crystal block at five DOI positions spaced at intervals of 4 mm. Maximum-likelihood estimation was employed for DOI positioning and the optimal DOI estimation scheme was also investigated in this study. As a result, the DOI PET detector showed clear crystal identification. The energy resolution (full-width at half-maximum (FWHM)) averaged over all depths was 10.21% ± 0.15% at 511 keV, and time resolution averaged over all depths was 1198.61 ± 39.70 ps FWHM. The average DOI positioning accuracy for all depths was 74.22% ± 6.77%, which equates to DOI resolution of 4.67 mm. Energy and DOI resolutions were uniform over all crystal positions except for the back parts of the array. Furthermore, additional simulation studies were conducted to verify the results of our DOI measurement method that is combined with dSiPM technology. In conclusion, our continuous DOI PET detector coupled with dSiPM is a promising PET/MRI detector with DOI-encoding capability.
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