Polyvinyl chloride plastisol breast phantoms for ultrasound imaging

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Abstract

Ultrasonic phantoms are objects that mimic some features of biological tissues, allowing the study of their interactions with ultrasound (US). In the diagnostic-imaging field, breast phantoms are an important tool for testing performance and optimizing US systems, as well as for training medical professionals. This paper describes the design and manufacture of breast lesions by using polyvinyl chloride plastisol (PVCP) as the base material. Among the materials available for this study, PVCP was shown to be stable, durable, and easy to handle. Furthermore, it is a nontoxic, nonpolluting, and low-cost material. The breast's glandular tissue (image background) was simulated by adding graphite powder with a concentration of 1% to the base material. Mixing PVCP and graphite powder in differing concentrations allows one to simulate lesions with different echogenicity patterns (anechoic, hypoechoic, and hyperechoic). From this mixture, phantom materials were obtained with speed of sound varying from 1379.3 to 1397.9 m s−1 and an attenuation coefficient having values between 0.29 and 0.94 dB cm−1 for a frequency of 1 MHz at 24 °C. A single layer of carnauba wax was added to the lesion surface in order to evaluate its applicability for imaging. The images of the phantoms were acquired using commercial ultrasound equipment; a specialist rated the images, elaborating diagnoses representative of both benign and malignant lesions. The results indicated that it was possible to easily create a phantom by using low-cost materials, readily available in the market and stable at room temperature, as the basis of ultrasonic phantoms that reproduce the image characteristics of fatty breast tissue and typical lesions of the breast.

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