Biomechanical modelling of probe to tissue interaction during ultrasound scanning



Biomechanical simulation of anatomical deformations caused by ultrasound probe pressure is of outstanding importance for several applications, from the testing of robotic acquisition systems to multi-modal image fusion and development of ultrasound training platforms. Different approaches can be exploited for modelling the probe–tissue interaction, each achieving different trade-offs among accuracy, computation time and stability.


We assess the performances of different strategies based on the finite element method for modelling the interaction between the rigid probe and soft tissues. Probe–tissue contact is modelled using (i) penalty forces, (ii) constraint forces, and (iii) by prescribing the displacement of the mesh surface nodes. These methods are tested in the challenging context of ultrasound scanning of the breast, an organ undergoing large nonlinear deformations during the procedure.


The obtained results are evaluated against those of a non-physically based method. While all methods achieve similar accuracy, performance in terms of stability and speed shows high variability, especially for those methods modelling the contacts explicitly. Overall, prescribing surface displacements is the approach with best performances, but it requires prior knowledge of the contact area and probe trajectory.


In this work, we present different strategies for modelling probe–tissue interaction, each able to achieve different compromises among accuracy, speed and stability. The choice of the preferred approach highly depends on the requirements of the specific clinical application. Since the presented methodologies can be applied to describe general tool–tissue interactions, this work can be seen as a reference for researchers seeking the most appropriate strategy to model anatomical deformation induced by the interaction with medical tools.

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This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 742671 “ARS” and No 688188 “MURAB”).

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Correspondence to Eleonora Tagliabue.

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Tagliabue, E., Dall’Alba, D., Magnabosco, E. et al. Biomechanical modelling of probe to tissue interaction during ultrasound scanning. Int J CARS 15, 1379–1387 (2020).

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  • Biomechanical simulation
  • Probe–tissue interaction
  • Ultrasound scanning
  • Breast ultrasound