Non-invasive, contrast-free imaging of small vessel blood flow is diagnostically invaluable for detection, diagnosis and monitoring of disease. Recent advances in ultrafast imaging and tissue clutter-filtering have considerably improved the sensitivity of power Doppler (PD) imaging in detecting small vessel blood flow. However, suppression of tissue clutter exposes the depth-dependent time-gain compensated noise bias that noticeably degrades the PD image. We hypothesized that background suppression of PD images based on noise bias estimated from the entire clutter-filtered singular value spectrum can considerably improve flow signal visualization compared to currently existing techniques. To test our hypothesis, in vivo experiments were conducted on suspicious breast lesions in 10 subjects and deep-seated hepatic and renal microvasculatures in four healthy volunteers. Ultrasound PD images were acquired using a clinical ultrasound scanner, implemented with compounded plane wave imaging. The time gain compensated noise field was computed from the clutter-filtered Doppler ensemble (CFDE) based on its local spatio-temporal correlation, combined with low-rank signal estimation. Subsequently, the background bias in the PD images was suppressed by subtracting the estimated noise field. Background-suppressed PD images obtained using the proposed technique substantially improved visualization of the blood flow signal. The background bias in the noise suppressed PD images varied <0.6 dB, independent of depth, which otherwise increased up to 13.8 dB. Further, the results demonstrated that the proposed technique efficaciously suppressed the background noise bias associated with smaller Doppler ensembles, which are challenging due to increased overlap between blood flow and noise components in the singular value spectrum. These preliminary results demonstrate the utility of the proposed technique to improve the visualization of small vessel blood flow in contrast-free PD images. The results of this feasibility study were encouraging, and warrant further development and additional in vivo validation.
- microvessel imaging
- noise bias suppression
- power Doppler imaging
- ultrafast ultrasound
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging