Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


3. MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES, Radiology, nuclear medicine and medical imaging

Publication Details

Physica Medica - The European Journal of Medical Physics


The aim of this work was to establish the optimum acoustic characterisation approach and insonation transmit beam parameters for subharmonic signal generation with ‘native’ and ‘altered’ populations of a commonly-used microbubble contrast agent. Dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) ultrasound is a non-invasive method of imaging the microvasculature, typically implemented using harmonic imaging. Subharmonic imaging, in which echoes at half the fundamental frequency are detected, detects signals which are generated by the ultrasound contrast agents (UCAs) but not by tissue. However, optimal transmission parameters and furthermore, the optimum acoustic characterisation method have not been established. The subharmonic response of ‘native’ and ‘altered’ UCA, altered through decantation, was investigated at transmit centre frequencies 1.8–5 MHz and pulse lengths 1–8 cycles. The ‘altered’ UCA had reduced polydispersity (1–4 µm: 82% bubble volume), compared to ‘native’ (4–10 µm: 57% bubble volume). A custom-built narrow-band acoustic characterisation system was found to be more appropriate for acoustic characterisation compared to the commonly used broadband pulse-echo approach. Both UCA generated the highest subharmonic signal at pulse length of 3-cycles. The maximum ‘native’ subharmonic signal was generated at a transmit centre frequency of 1.9 MHz, corresponding to a subharmonic at 0.95 MHz. This optimal frequency increased in the ‘altered’ population to 2.3–2.5 MHz, bringing the subharmonic above 1 MHz and hence into a range amenable to clinical abdominal imaging transducers. The use of subharmonic signal detection coupled with a modified UCA size distribution has potential to significantly improve the quantification sensitivity and accuracy of DCE ultrasound imaging. Keywords: Ultrasound contrast agent; Acoustic characterisation; Subharmonic imaging



Irish Research Council