A Novel Microflow Phantom Dedicated to Ultrasound Microvascular Measurements

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Tumor microvascularization is a biomarker of response to antiangiogenic treatments and is accurately assessed by ultrasound imaging. Imaging modes used to visualize slow flows include Power Doppler imaging, dynamic contrast-enhanced ultrasonography, and more recently, microvascular Doppler. Flow phantoms are used to evaluate the performance of Doppler imaging techniques, but they do not have a steady flow and sufficiently small channels. We report a novel device for robust and stable microflow measurements and the study of the microvascularization. Based on microfluidics technology, the prototype features wall-less cylindrical channels of diameters ranging from as small as 147 up to 436 µm, cast in a soft silicone polymer and perfused via a microfluidic flow pressure controller. The device was assessed using flow rates from 49 to 146 µL/min, with less than 1% coefficient of variation over three minutes, corresponding to velocities of 6 to 142 mm/s. This enabled us to evaluate and confirm the reliability of the Superb Microvascular Imaging Doppler mode compared with the Power Doppler mode at these flow rates in the presence of vibrations mimicking physiological motion.

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