An Automated ALARA Method for Ultrasound: An Obstetric Ultrasound Feasibility Study.
OBJECTIVES: Ultrasound users are advised to observe the ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) principle, but studies have shown that most do not monitor acoustic output metrics. We developed an adaptive ultrasound method that could suggest acoustic output levels based on real-time image quality feedback using lag-one coherence (LOC). METHODS: Lag-one coherence as a function of the mechanical index (MI) was assessed in 35 healthy volunteers in their second trimester of pregnancy. While imaging the placenta or the fetal abdomen, the system swept through 16 MI values ranging from 0.15 to 1.20. The LOC-versus-MI data were fit with a sigmoid curve, and the ALARA MI was selected as the point at which the fit reached 98% of its maximum. RESULTS: In this study, the ALARA MI values were between 0.35 and 1.03, depending on the acoustic window. Compared to a default MI of 0.8, the pilot acquisitions suggested a lower ALARA MI 80% of the time. The contrast, contrast-to-noise ratio, generalized contrast-to-noise ratio, and LOC all followed sigmoidal trends with an increasing MI. The R2 of the fit was statistically significantly greater for LOC than the other metrics (P < .017). CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that maximum image quality can be achieved with acoustic output levels lower than the US Food and Drug Administration limits in many cases, and an automated tool could be used in real time to find the ALARA MI for specific imaging conditions. Our results support the feasibility of an automated, LOC-based implementation of the ALARA principle for obstetric ultrasound.
Flint, K; Bottenus, N; Bradway, D; McNally, P; Ellestad, S; Trahey, G
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