Front-illuminated versus back-illuminated photon-counting CCD-based gamma camera: Important consequences for spatial resolution and energy resolution

Jan W.T. Heemskerk, Albert H. Westra, Peter M. Linotte, Kees M. Ligtvoet, Wojciech Zbijewski, Freek J. Beekman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Charge-coupled devices (CCDs) coupled to scintillation crystals can be used for high-resolution imaging with x-rays and gamma rays. When the CCD images can be read out fast enough, the energy and interaction position of individual gamma quanta can be estimated by a real-time image analysis of the scintillation light flashes ('photon-counting mode'). The electron-multiplying CCD (EMCCD) is well suited for fast read out, since even at high frame rates it has extremely low read-out noise. Back-illuminated (BI) EMCCDs have much higher quantum efficiency than front-illuminated (FI) EMCCDs. Here we compare the spatial and energy resolution of gamma cameras based on FI and BI EMCCDs. The CCDs are coupled to a 1000 μm thick columnar CsI(Tl) crystal for the purpose of Tc-99m and I-125 imaging. Intrinsic spatial resolutions of 44 μm for I-125 and 49 μm for Tc-99m were obtained when using a BI EMCCD, which is an improvement by a factor of about 1.2-2 over the FI EMCCD. Furthermore, in the energy spectrum of the BI EMCCD, the I-125 signal could be clearly separated from the background noise, which was not the case for the FI EMCCD. The energy resolution of a BI EMCCD for Tc-99m was estimated to be approximately 36 keV, full width at half maximum, at 141 keV. The excellent results for the BI EMCCD encouraged us to investigate the cooling requirements for our setup. We have found that for the BI EMCCD, the spatial and energy resolution, as well as image noise, remained stable over a range of temperatures from -50°C to -15°C. This is a significant advantage over the FI EMCCD, which suffered from loss of spatial and especially energy resolution at temperatures as low as -40°C. We conclude that the use of BI EMCCDs may significantly improve the imaging capabilities and the cost efficiency of CCD-based high-resolution gamma cameras.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberN01
Pages (from-to)N149-N162
JournalPhysics in medicine and biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 21 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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