Nonlinear Imaging of Microbubble Contrast Agent Using the Volterra Filter: In Vivo Results

Juan Du, Dalong Liu, Emad S. Ebbini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


A nonlinear filtering approach to imaging the dynamics of microbubble ultrasound contrast agents (UCAs) in microvessels is presented. The approach is based on the adaptive third-order Volterra filter (TVF), which separates the linear, quadratic, and cubic components from beamformed pulse-echo ultrasound data. The TVF captures polynomial nonlinearities utilizing the full spectral components of the echo data and not from prespecified bands, e.g., second or third harmonics. This allows for imaging using broadband pulse transmission to preserve the axial resolution and the SNR. In this paper, we present the results from imaging the UCA activity in a 200-μm cellulose tube embedded in a tissue-mimicking phantom using a linear array diagnostic probe. The contrast enhancement was quantified by computing the contrast-to-tissue ratio (CTR) for the different imaging components, i.e., B-mode, pulse inversion (PI), and the TVF components. The temporal mean and standard deviation of the CTR values were computed for all frames in a given data set. Quadratic and cubic images, referred to as QB-mode and CB-mode, produced higher mean CTR values than B-mode, which showed improved sensitivity. Compared with PI, they produced similar or higher mean CTR values with greater spatial specificity. We also report in vivo results from imaging UCA activity in an implanted LNCaP tumor with heterogeneous perfusion. The temporal means and standard deviations of the echogenicity were evaluated in small regions with different perfusion levels in the presence and absence of UCA. The in vivo measurements behaved consistently with the corresponding calculations obtained under microflow conditions in vitro. Specifically, the nonlinear VF components produced larger increases in the temporal mean and standard deviation values compared with B-mode in regions with low to relatively high perfusion. These results showed that polynomial filters such as the TVF can provide an important tool for imaging UCA activity in regions with heterogeneous perfusion as is the case in some tumors and ischemic tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2069-2081
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health under Grant NS087887.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 IEEE.


  • Functional imaging
  • nonlinear filtering
  • perfusion imaging
  • polynomial filters


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