Microbubble Cavitation Imaging

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IEEE Transactions On Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, And Frequency Control


Ultrasound cavitation of microbubble contrast agents has a potential for therapeutic applications such as sonothrombolysis (STL) in acute ischemic stroke. For safety, efficacy, and reproducibility of treatment, it is critical to evaluate the cavitation state (moderate oscillations, stable cavitation, and inertial cavitation) and activity level in and around a treatment area. Acoustic passive cavitation detectors (PCDs) have been used to this end but do not provide spatial information. This paper presents a prototype of a 2-D cavitation imager capable of producing images of the dominant cavitation state and activity level in a region of interest. Similar to PCDs, the cavitation imaging described here is based on the spectral analysis of the acoustic signal radiated by the cavitating microbubbles: ultraharmonics of the excitation frequency indicate stable cavitation, whereas elevated noise bands indicate inertial cavitation; the absence of both indicates moderate oscillations. The prototype system is a modified commercially available ultrasound scanner with a sector imaging probe. The lateral resolution of the system is 1.5 mm at a focal depth of 3 cm, and the axial resolution is 3 cm for a therapy pulse length of 20 mu s. The maximum frame rate of the prototype is 2 Hz. The system has been used for assessing and mapping the relative importance of the different cavitation states of a microbubble contrast agent. In vitro (tissue-mimicking flow phantom) and in vivo (heart, liver, and brain of two swine) results for cavitation states and their changes as a function of acoustic amplitude are presented.