Experimental Validation of Displacement Underestimation in ARFI Ultrasound

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Acoustic radiation force impulse (ARFI) imaging is an elastography technique that uses ultrasonic pulses to displace and track tissue motion. Previous modeling studies have shown that ARFI displacements are susceptible to underestimation due to lateral and elevational shearing that occurs within the tracking resolution cell. In this study, optical tracking was utilized to experimentally measure the displacement underestimation achieved by acoustic tracking using a clinical ultrasound system. Three optically translucent phantoms of varying stiffness were created, embedded with subwavelength diameter microspheres, and ARFI excitation pulses with F/1.5 or F/3 lateral focal configurations were transmitted from a standard linear array to induce phantom motion. Displacements were tracked using confocal optical and acoustic methods. As predicted by earlier finite element method studies, significant acoustic displacement underestimation was observed for both excitation focal configurations; the maximum underestimation error was 35% of the optically measured displacement for the F/1.5 excitation pulse in the softest phantom. Using higher F/#, less tightly focused beams in the lateral dimension improved accuracy of displacements by approximately 10 percentage points. This work experimentally demonstrates limitations of ARFI implemented on a clinical scanner using a standard linear array and sets up a framework for future displacement tracking validation studies.

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