A Lanthanum Halide scintillator (for example LaCl.sub.3 and LaBr.sub.3) with fast decay time and good timing resolution, as well as high light output and good energy resolution, is used in the design of a PET scanner. The PET scanner includes a cavity for accepting a patient and a plurality of PET detector modules arranged in an approximately cylindrical configuration about the cavity. Each PET detector includes a Lanthanum Halide scintillator having a plurality of Lanthanum Halide crystals, a light guide, and a plurality of photomultiplier tubes arranged respectively peripherally around the cavity. The good timing resolution enables a time-of-flight (TOF) PET scanner to be developed that exhibits a reduction in noise propagation during image reconstruction and a gain in the signal-to-noise ratio. Such a PET scanner includes a time stamp circuit that records the time of receipt of gamma rays by respective PET detectors and provides timing data outputs that are provided to a processor that, in turn, calculates time-of-flight (TOF) of gamma rays through a patient in the cavity and uses the TOF of gamma rays in the reconstruction of images of the patient.
The present invention was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under Grant No. DOE DE-FG02-88ER60642 and by the National Institutes of Health under NIH Grant No. 1-R21-EB-001684-01. The government may have certain rights in the invention.