Integration of deployable fluid lenses and reflectors with endoluminal therapeutic ultrasound applicators: Preliminary investigations of enhanced penetration depth and focal gain

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Catheter-based ultrasound applicators can generate thermal ablation of tissues adjacent to body lumens, but have limited focusing and penetration capabilities due to the small profile of integrated transducers required for the applicator to traverse anatomical passages. This study investigates a design for an endoluminal or laparoscopic ultrasound applicator with deployable acoustic reflector and fluid lens components, which can be expanded after device delivery to increase the effective acoustic aperture and allow for deeper and dynamically adjustable target depths. Acoustic and biothermal theoretical studies, along with benchtop proof-of-concept measurements, were performed to investigate the proposed design.


The design schema consists of an array of tubular transducer(s) situated at the end of a catheter assembly, surrounded by an expandable water-filled conical balloon with a secondary reflective compartment that redirects acoustic energy distally through a plano-convex fluid lens. By controlling the lens fluid volume, the convex surface can be altered to adjust the focal length or collapsed for device insertion or removal. Acoustic output of the expanded applicator assembly was modeled using the rectangular radiator method and secondary sources, accounting for reflection and refraction at interfaces. Parametric studies of transducer radius (1–5 mm), height (3–25 mm), frequency (1.5–3 MHz), expanded balloon diameter (10–50 mm), lens focal length (10–100 mm), lens fluid (silicone oil, perfluorocarbon), and tissue attenuation (0–10 Np/m/MHz) on beam distributions and focal gain were performed. A proof-of-concept applicator assembly was fabricated and characterized using hydrophone-based intensity profile measurements. Biothermal simulations of endoluminal ablation in liver and pancreatic tissue were performed for target depths between 2 and 10 cm.


Simulations indicate that focal gain and penetration depth scale with the expanded reflector-lens balloon diameter, with greater achievable performance using perfluorocarbon lens fluid. Simulations of a 50 mm balloon OD, 10 mm transducer outer diameter (OD), 1.5 MHz assembly in water resulted in maximum intensity gain of ˜170 (focal dimensions: ˜12 mm length × 1.4 mm width) at ˜5 cm focal depth and focal gains above 100 between 24 and 84 mm depths. A smaller (10 mm balloon OD, 4 mm transducer OD, 1.5 MHz) configuration produced a maximum gain of 6 at 9 mm depth. Compared to a conventional applicator with a fixed spherically focused transducer of 12 mm diameter, focal gain was enhanced at depths beyond 20 mm for assembly configurations with balloon diameters ≥ 20 mm. Hydrophone characterizations of the experimental assembly (31 mm reflector/lens diameter, 4.75 mm transducer radius, 1.7 MHz) illustrated focusing at variable depths between 10–70 mm with a maximum gain of ˜60 and demonstrated agreement with theoretical simulations. Biothermal simulations (30 s sonication, 75 °C maximum) indicate that investigated applicator assembly configurations, at 30 mm and 50 mm balloon diameters, could create localized ellipsoidal thermal lesions increasing in size from 10 to 55 mm length × 3–6 mm width in liver tissue as target depth increased from 2 to 10 cm.


Preliminary theoretical and experimental analysis demonstrates that combining endoluminal ultrasound with an expandable acoustic reflector and fluid lens assembly can significantly enhance acoustic focal gain and penetration from inherently smaller diameter catheter-based applicators.

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