For ultrasound contrast agents (UCA), nonlinear imaging now has become fundamental. All of the current contrast-imaging methods are dominantly based on the nonlinear response of UCA bubbles. The discrimination between the perfused tissue and the UCA is the challenge in the field of UCA-imaging. This differentiation is usually associated or expressed by the ratio of the scattered power from the contrast agent to the scattered power from the tissue and is termed 'contrast-to-tissue ratio' (CTR). Second harmonic imaging showed a better discrimination between tissue and UCA than fundamental imaging because of a higher CTR. We demonstrate, in this study, that the CTR increases as a function of the order of the harmonic frequency. Currently, due to the limited bandwidth of the transducers, only the second harmonic is selectively imaged, resulting in images with a superior quality to fundamental images, but still degraded and not optimal because of the harmonic generation in the underlying tissue (due to nonlinear propagation) and hence giving a limited CTR. To increase the CTR and to take advantage of the higher harmonics (third, fourth, fifth and the ultraharmonics and termed here super harmonics), we have developed a new phased array transducer. The array transducer contains two different types of elements arranged in an interleaved pattern (odd and even elements). The total number of elements is 96. The elements can operate separately and at a distinct frequency, enabling separate transmission and reception modes. The odd elements (48) operate at typically 2.8 MHz center frequency and 80% bandwidth. The even elements (48) have a center frequency of 900 kHz with a bandwidth of 50%. In vitro measurements using the dual frequency probe show an increase of 40 dB in the CTR for super harmonic components over the conventional second harmonic system. The increase in CTR is in agreement with the calculations using existing models for the response of encapsulated bubbles and known theory of nonlinear propagation. Animal experiments have demonstrated the feasibility of this approach using commercially available UCA and showed a similar increase of the CTR. Copyright

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Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology
Department of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery

Bouakaz, A, Frigstad, S, ten Cate, F.J, & de Jong, N. (2002). Super harmonic imaging: A new imaging technique for improved contrast detection. Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology, 28(1), 59–68. doi:10.1016/S0301-5629(01)00460-4