High Frame Rate Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound for Velocimetry in the Human Abdominal Aorta

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Treatment of abdominal aortic (AA) aneurysms and stenotic lesions may be improved by analyzing their associated blood flow patterns. Angle-independent blood flow patterns in the AA can be obtained by combining echo-particle image velocimetry (ePIV) with high frame rate contrast-enhanced ultrasonography. However, ePIV performance is affected by ultrasound contrast agent (UCA) concentration, microbubble stability and tissue clutter. In this study we assessed the influence of acoustic pressure and UCA concentration on image quality for ePIV analysis. We also compared amplitude modulation (AM) and singular value decomposition (SVD) as tissue suppression strategies for ePIV. Fourteen healthy volunteers were imaged in the region of the distal AA. We tested four different UCA bolus volumes (0.25, 0.5, 0.75 and 1.5 ml) and four different acoustic output pressures (mechanical indices: 0.01, 0.03, 0.06 and 0.09). As image quality metrics, we measured contrast-to-background ratio, bubble disruption ratio and maximum normalized cross-correlation value during ePIV. At mechanical indices e 0.06, we detected severe bubble destruction, suggesting that very low acoustic pressures should be used for ePIV. SVD was able to suppress tissue clutter better than AM. The maximum tracking correlation was affected by both UCA concentration and flow rate, where at high flow rates, lower UCA concentrations resulted in slightly higher correlation values but more signal drop-outs during late diastole. High frame rate ePIV was successfully performed in the AA of healthy volunteers and shows promise for future studies in patients.