In quantitative measurements of small animal PET studies, blood sampling is limited due to the small amounts of blood such animals can provide. In addition, injection doses are quite limited. In this situation, a high-sensitivity well counter would be useful for reducing the amount of the blood sample needed from small animals. Bismuth germinate (BGO) has a high stopping power for high-energy gamma rays compared to NaI(Tl), which is commonly used for conventional well counters. We have developed a BGO well counter and have tested it for blood-sampling measurements in small animals. The BGO well counter uses a square BGO block (59 x 59 x 50 mm) with a square open space (27 x 27 x 34 mm) in the center of the block. The BGO block was optically coupled to a 59-mm square-shaped photomultiplier tube (PMT). Signals from the PMT were digitally processed for the integration and energy window setting. The results showed that the energy spectrum of the BGO well counter measured with a Na-22 point source provided counts that were about 6 times higher for a 1022-keV (511 keV x 2) gamma peak than the spectrum of a 2-in. NaI(Tl) well counter. The relative sensitivity of the developed BGO well counter was 3.4 times higher than that of a NaI(Tl) well counter. The time activity curve of arterial blood was obtained successfully with the BGO well counter for a F-18-FDG study on rat. The BGO well counter will contribute to reducing the amount of sampled blood and to improving the throughput of quantitative measurements in small animal PET studies.
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