The direct estimation of sound speed using pulse-echo ultrasound.
A method for the direct estimation of the longitudinal speed of sound in a medium is presented. This estimator derives the speed of sound through analysis of pulse-echo data received across a single transducer array following a single transmission, and is analogous to methods used in exploration seismology. A potential application of this estimator is the dynamic correction of beamforming errors in medical imaging that result from discrepancy between the assumed and actual biological tissue velocities. The theoretical basis of this estimator is described and its function demonstrated in phantom experiments. Using a wire target, sound-speed estimates in water, methanol, ethanol, and n-butanol are compared to published values. Sound-speed estimates in two speckle-generating phantoms are also compared to expected values. The mean relative errors of these estimates are all less than 0.4%, and under the most ideal experimental conditions are less than 0.1%. The relative errors of estimates based on independent regions of speckle-generating phantoms have a standard deviation on the order of 0.5%. Simulation results showing the relative significance of potential sources of estimate error are presented. The impact of sound-speed errors on imaging and the potential of this estimator for phase aberration correction and tissue characterization are also discussed.
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