Harmonic tracking of acoustic radiation force-induced displacements.
Ultrasound-based elasticity imaging methods rely upon accurate estimates of tissue deformation to characterize the mechanical properties of soft tissues. These methods are corrupted by clutter, which can bias and/or increase variance in displacement estimates. Harmonic imaging methods are routinely used for clutter suppression and improved image quality in conventional B-mode ultrasound, but have not been utilized in ultrasound-based elasticity imaging methods. We introduce a novel, fully-sampled pulse-inversion harmonic method for tracking tissue displacements that corrects the loss in temporal sampling frequency associated with conventional pulse-inversion techniques. The method is implemented with acoustic radiation force impulse (ARFI) imaging to monitor the displacements induced by an impulsive acoustic radiation force excitation. Custom pulse sequences were implemented on a diagnostic ultrasound scanner to collect spatially-matched fundamental and harmonic information within a single acquisition. B-mode and ARFI images created from fundamental data collected at 4 MHz and 8 MHz are compared with 8-MHz harmonic images created using a band-pass filter approach and the fully sampled pulse-inversion method. In homogeneous, tissue-mimicking phantoms, where no visible clutter was observed, there was little difference in the axial displacements, estimated jitter, and normalized cross-correlation among the fundamental and harmonic tracking methods. The similarity of the lower- and higher-frequency methods suggests that any improvement resulting from the increased frequency of the harmonic components is negligible. The harmonic tracking methods demonstrated a marked improvement in B-mode and ARFI image quality of in vivo carotid arteries. Improved feature detection and decreased variance in estimated displacements were observed in the arterial walls of harmonic ARFI images, especially in the pulse-inversion harmonic ARFI images. Within the lumen, the harmonic tracking methods improved the discrimination of the blood–vessel interface, making it easier to visualize plaque boundaries. Improvements in harmonic ARFI images in vivo were consistent with suppressed clutter supported by improved contrast and contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) in the matched harmonic B-mode images compared with the fundamental B-mode images. These results suggest that harmonic tracking methods can improve the clinical utility and diagnostic accuracy of ultrasound-based elasticity imaging methods.
Doherty, JR; Dahl, JJ; Trahey, GE
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