Maximizing the signal-to-noise ratio of diverging ultrasonic waves in multiple scattering, attenuating, and diffracting media

Köymen, Hayrettin
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Bilkent University
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Diverging wave imaging is an unfocused imaging method in which a diverging beam is transmitted to insonify the entire region of interest. This diverging beam is formed by applying appropriate time delays to each transducer array element. It provides a higher data acquisition rate and thus a higher temporal resolution, quantified as a higher frame rate. Therefore, diverging wave imaging is widely used in fast ultrasound imaging applications where rates above 1000 frames per second are required. Diverging wave imaging is generally implemented with phased array transducers having a smaller aperture than their counterparts to increase the field of view. Although diverging wave imaging allows for a high frame rate, it has a decreased spatial resolution and limited SNR due to the broader unfocused beam transmission compared to conventional focused imaging techniques. Conventional focused imaging techniques employ focused narrow beam transmissions for every image line resulting in a higher spatial resolution and SNR in the focal region. However, it offers approximately 30 frames per second, and thus it is not used in fast ultrasound imaging applications. There is a trade-off between frame rate, image quality, and SNR in diverging wave imaging. Therefore, fast imaging with high SNR and resolution while maintaining a high frame rate remains a practical problem in medical ultrasound. This thesis focuses on SNR maximization of diverging waves in weakly and multiple scattering, attenuating, and diffracting media. The primary outcome is that the SNR improves at deeper regions if the transmitted burst duration or the chip signal duration in the case of coded transmission is decreased when diverging waves are used. The maximum SNR is obtained in diverging wave transmission when the transmitted burst or the chip signal is as short-duration as the array permits. This result does not comply with the expectation implying that more transmitted energy results in higher SNR. The analytical foundation for diverging wave propagation in weakly and multiple scattering media is not sufficient at the level required to derive analytical results. In order to understand this counter-intuitive result, either finite element analysis (FEA) or semi-analytical simulation tools can be utilized. FEA can predict this counter-intuitive result, but detailed modeling of the medium is quite involved and results in very long simulation times, which renders the use of FEA impossible. Unlike the other imaging modalities, the wavelength is on the order of hundred micrometers in medical ultrasound imaging; thus, the simulation of a reasonable tissue volume is impossible. Semi-analytical simulation tools based on linear spatial impulse response produce erroneous results because scatterers are modeled as monopole sources, and multiple scattering is not modeled. As there is no analytical and simulation-based solution for this problem, the experimental verification of the results is presented. The transmitted ultrasound energy spreads over a broader region in diverging wave imaging. The energy spreading further aggravates due to diffraction and multiple scattering, which may cause energy loss. Keeping the transmitted ultrasound energy within the region of interest prevents this energy loss in diverging wave imaging. Therefore, we determined the optimum diverging wave profile to confine the transmitted ultrasound energy in the imaging sector. Using this optimized profile contributes to the SNR maximization. Complementary Golay sequences and Binary Phase Shift Keying modulation are used to code the transmitted signal. We used an ultrasound research scanner, a tissue-mimicking phantom, and a 128-element phased array transducer with 70% bandwidth at 7.5 MHz center frequency for data acquisition. The SNR in speckle and pin targets is maximized with respect to chip signal length and code length. The SNR performances of the optimized coded diverging wave and conventional single-focused phased array imaging are compared on a single frame basis. The focal region in the focused scheme is used as a reference. For the 90° imaging sector, the SNR of an 8-bit coded signal is maximum when the chip signal duration is one cycle of the center frequency. The SNR of the optimized coded diverging wave is higher than that of the conventional single-focused phased array imaging at all depths and regions. One frame of diverging wave data is acquired in 200 microseconds, equivalent to 5000 frames/s, whereas the time required for single-focused phased array imaging is 181 times more.

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