Power spectral estimation of high-harmonics in echoes of wall resonances to improve resolution in non-invasive measurements of wall mechanical properties in rubber tube and ex-vivo artery

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Abstract

The aim of this work is to develop a new type of ultrasonic analysis of the mechanical properties of an arterial wall with improved resolution, and to confirm its feasibility under laboratory conditions. Motivation: it is expected that this would facilitate a non-invasive path for accurate predictive diagnosis that enables an early detection & therapy of vascular pathologies. In particular, the objective is to detect and quantify the small elasticity changes (in Young's modulus E) of arterial walls, which precede pathology. A submicron axial resolution is required for this analysis, as the periodic widening of the wall (under oscillatory arterial pressure) varies between ±10 and 20 μm. This high resolution represents less than 1% of the parietal thickness (e.g., << 7 μm in carotid arteries). The novelty of our proposal is the new technique used to estimate the modulus E of the arterial walls, which achieves the requisite resolution. It calculates the power spectral evolution associated with the temporal dynamics in higher harmonics of the wall internal resonance f0. This was attained via the implementation of an autoregressive parametric algorithm that accurately detects parietal echo-dynamics during a heartbeat. Thus, it was possible to measure the punctual elasticity of the wall, with a higher resolution (> an order of magnitude) compared to conventional approaches. The resolution of a typical ultrasonic image is limited to several hundred microns, and thus, such small changes are undetected. The proposed procedure provides a non-invasive and direct measure of elasticity by doing an estimation of changes in the Nf0 harmonics and wall thickness with a resolution of 0.1%, for first time. The results obtained by using the classic temporal cross-correlation method (TCC) were compared to those obtained with the new procedure. The latter allowed the evaluation of alterations in the elastic properties of arterial walls that are 30 times smaller than those being detectable with TCC; in fact, the depth resolution of the TCC approach is limited to ≈20 μm for typical SNRs. These values were calculated based on echoes obtained using a reference pattern (rubber tube). The application of the proposed procedure was also confirmed via “ex-vivo” measurements in pig carotid segments.

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