Adaptive windowing in contrast-enhanced intravascular ultrasound imaging

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Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) is one of the most commonly-used interventional imaging techniques and has seen recent innovations which attempt to characterize the risk posed by atherosclerotic plaques. One such development is the use of microbubble contrast agents to image vasa vasorum, fine vessels which supply oxygen and nutrients to the walls of coronary arteries and typically have diameters less than 200 μm. The degree of vasa vasorum neovascularization within plaques is positively correlated with plaque vulnerability. Having recently presented a prototype dual-frequency transducer for contrast agent-specific intravascular imaging, here we describe signal processing approaches based on minimum variance (MV) beamforming and the phase coherence factor (PCF) for improving the spatial resolution and contrast-to-tissue ratio (CTR) in IVUS imaging. These approaches are examined through simulations, phantom studies, ex vivo studies in porcine arteries, and in vivo studies in chicken embryos. In phantom studies, PCF processing improved CTR by a mean of 4.2 dB, while combined MV and PCF processing improved spatial resolution by 41.7%. Improvements of 2.2 dB in CTR and 37.2% in resolution were observed in vivo. Applying these processing strategies can enhance image quality in conventional B-mode IVUS or in contrast-enhanced IVUS, where signal-to-noise ratio is relatively low and resolution is at a premium.

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