Tissue harmonic and contrast-specific imaging: back to gray scale in ultrasound
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The development of new US techniques that produce images based on nonlinear acoustic effects of US interaction with matter or microbubble contrast agents has opened new prospects for gray-scale US in native tissue and contrast imaging. Tissue harmonic imaging uses higher frequencies generated on propagation of the US beam through matter to improve image quality and resolve small anatomic structures and details, and is becoming a routine approach in US examination of many abdominal districts. Contrast-specific imaging techniques display enhancement of US agents in gray-scale with optimal contrast and spatial resolution, and offer high sensitivity either to microbubble movement or to microbubble destruction in dependence of the level of the applied acoustic peak pressure. Owing to the ability to exploit the microcirculation, contrast-specific techniques have enabled the evolution of contrast US from vascular imaging to the imaging of perfused tissues. Several studies have shown that these methods can substantially improve US detection and characterization of focal liver lesions, and promising results have been reported in other areas of investigation. This article reviews physical principles, technical issues, and clinical applications of tissue harmonic and contrast-specific imaging. It is foreseen that the new gray-scale US techniques will rapidly become a tool in numerous clinical scenarios.
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